Tis the season unless of course, you’re a short green thief with a vendetta against Christmas. This is a joyous time filled with food, family and your favorite squad but there’s a character, cuddly as a cactus, preparing to ruin it all.
The month of December features 16 games in 30 days. Good for entertainment potentially daunting for a team. The Mavericks recent winning ways have established an optimistic outlook so it’s tougher than ever to keep expectations tempered. This month is sure to provide a heavy dose of levity as it has the power to set a narrative for the rest of the year. Tank or playoffs?
Luka and “Nem”
The Mavs have continued to upgrade expectations as a once sub .500 team ventures into winning territory for just the second time this season (14-11). The backcourt has been impacted by injuries to Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. A wrist injury sidelined DSJ for all but two games this month while Luka missed one game with a hip strain. Luka has continued his impressive production by proving he can do more than just score. Although scoring has been inconsistent for Doncic he’s averaged 14 PTS, 8 REBS and 5 AST per game in December which is solid production for any player, especially a rookie. The Matador possesses a maturity beyond his years. He understands when buckets are hard to come by there are other ways to impact the game at a high level. Versus Portland (12/4) Doncic managed to produce 21 PTS with 9 REBS but the very next game against New Orleans (12/5) 8 PTS and 4 REBS was all he could muster. This up and down trend continued against Houston (12/8) as he ended the game on an 11-0 run clinching the victory with 21 total points. Check it out here:
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 9, 2018
The roller coaster didn’t end there as Doncic struggled to manufacture points the following game against (12/10) Orlando (7 PTS) but stepped up in other areas to help secure the win (11 REBS, 9 AST). Not to be overshadowed is the overall performance of the squad. Each game this month at least 4 Mavericks have scored double figures. Logically we have to assume Luka and the team are headed for a wall but starting the month 4-1 quickly puts that narrative to rest. Based on their future opponents Donicic has a rare opportunity to prove he deserves Rookie of the Year honors. The Mavs take on the Hawks (Tre Young) tonight, Suns (Deandre Ayton) tomorrow and the Kings (Marvin Bagley Jr.) on Sunday. A stretch of dominating games will surely do wonders for Luka’s R.O.Y. campaign. The previously named rooks coupled with Memphis big man Jaren Jackson round out the competition for R.O.Y. but I see no real contenders standing in 77’s way.
The toughest stretch of the season is highlighted by four sets of back to back games this month. Like the Grinch, December’s schedule is cleverly disguised, hiding 8 road games and 12 games versus potential Western Conference playoff teams. On this stretch, Orlando, Phoenix, and Atlanta are the only teams likely to miss the playoffs. The Mavericks have a rare opportunity to establish themselves as legit playoff contenders something no devout MFFL anticipated this early in the season. Dwain Price, Mavs beat writer shared an interesting nugget about just how busy the squad will be.
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) December 12, 2018
Riding the current winning wave will be paramount if the team is to remain competitive. Currently, The Mavs are ranked 8th in the Western Conference. I’m sure this isn’t where they hope to be at seasons end but it could be exactly where they wind up. It’s both logical and realistic to anticipate their winning ways will dissipate. Especially when there is an abundant amount of uncertainty surrounding the roster’s future makeup.
The expiring deals have created a palpable atmosphere where the individual urgency of each player is stark and clear. Securing a playoff spot won’t be accomplished in December but this streak of games will no doubt prove exactly where this team is.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical but an opportunity to legitimize the squad has materialized. For several seasons moments like these have eluded the Mavs so some level of praise is deserved but let’s not dwell in the past. There is work to be done! Kick rocks Grinch!!!
Stats: ESPN Twitter: (1) @DallasMavs (2) @DwainPrice Photo: (1) Mavs.com *featured (2) Mavs.com