Things are simply not going well for the Dallas Mavericks. After losing a pair of back-to-back games to the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat, they are now looking at a the very real scenario of missing the play-in tournament altogether.
Their latest 132-130 defeat at the hands of the Hawks especially hurt because it happened in overtime after Kyrie Irving poured in 41 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block while Luka Doncic added 22 points, seven rebounds and seven steals.
The Mavericks never led in the fourth quarter, and only led briefly at the start of overtime, so there will be a lot of frustration going around. With both Doncic and Irving already showing frustration during press conferences, you also have to wonder what the future will hold since Irving is set to become a free agent.
After giving up their depth to acquire Irving, along with their best wing defender in Dorian Finney-Smith, the Mavericks have also backed themselves into a corner because of their lack of attractive trade assets. For them to miss the play-ins, after stringing together an impressive run to the Western Conference Finals last season and one of the most memorable Game 7 beatdowns ever, would be nothing short of an embarrassment for the franchise.
It doubly hurts because Jalen Brunson has blossomed into an All-Star calibre player after moving to the New York Knicks, and it begs the question of whether or not they should have just kept him instead of being forced to shake things up with the Irving trade before this year’s trade deadline.
The window isn’t completely closed, but it’s a difficult one. The Mavericks are one game behind the 10th place Oklahoma City Thunder with both teams having three games left on their schedule. Since the Thunder own the tiebreaker, the Mavericks need to win all of their three final games and the Thunder need to lose two of their three remaining games.
The Thunder face the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies to close out the season, and they’ve got a decent chance of beating at least the Jazz. The Mavericks, on the other hand, face the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs.
The Kings will be a difficult game because they were upset by the Spurs and are still looking for one more win to clinch the third seed and the Pacific Division. The Bulls will not be an easy out either because they also lie in the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. Finally, the Spurs just showed that they’re still capable of pulling off a surprise victory, even though they’re tanking for Victor Wembanyama.
With precious few games left to shape their destiny, Dallas now have to show what they’re made of. At this moment, I’m not exactly sure they can squeak back into the play-ins. Should they fail, it will be one of the worst single-season turnarounds in recent memory.