The Mavericks return to action this Friday, February 21 against the Orlando Magic.  They enter the last leg of the season with a respectable amount of momentum as the club’s health concerns continue to dissipate.
The team’s growth since the first schedule preview has been tangible and bare none.  In addition, per the Mavs have the 18th ranked schedule according to remaining schedule strength. These are ideal conditions for a playoff push.  Right? 

Can the Mavericks ride this favorable metric into the playoffs

THE FIRST 10: February 10 – March 8

The Mavericks have already equaled last year’s win total of 33 with 27 games remaining. Early on they will face a plethora of below .500 squads.

First 10
Photo: ESPN

Once again a prime opportunity to climb the western conference standings. Two games versus the hapless Timberwolves (16-37) in addition to games against Atlanta (15-41) and Chicago (19-36) all point towards a potential winning streak.

The stretch does, however, include its challenges. The Spurs are below .500 (23-31) but only 5 games behind  Memphis, the current 8th seed (28-26). The Mavs will also face tough eastern conference foes in the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. The game against the Heat will be the clubs fifth in eight nights. While the Pacers will close out the first ten games after the All-Star break. Neither will be a walk in the park.

Realistically the Mavs could emerge with 40 wins after this below .500 cluster. The only caveat is scheduling as there are a fair amount of trap games. The club’s schedule tightens allowing no or one rest day between contest. Playoff posturing will likely be the central theme so all games will be significant.

Next 10
Photo: ESPN

The Next 10: March 10 – March 29

The weight of the next 10 games is extreme. It will no doubt determine where the previously gained momentum is headed.

After a couple of nights rest, the Mavericks will face a scrappy Spurs squad. Likely on a focused push of their own. In this stretch, every sub .500 team (Spurs, Suns, Kings, Trailblazers) is just a few games from the last seed. Basically, the margin for error is small. Losing multiple games here would all but end any playoff chances.

The remaining 5 games aren’t just teams above .500 they’re NBA front runners. Strong performances and more important additions to the win column would be essential to the Mavs playoff positioning. The stretch is ripe with proving ground as they trail the Bucks, Nuggets, Jazz, Clippers, and Rockets in the standings. These matches will determine how the season is measured. Can they compete with the NBA’s elite teams?

LAST 7: April 1 – April 15

This finale of games is all about familiarity. The Mavericks will see three teams for a second time since the All-Star break.

Photo: ESPN

Denver, Houston, and Memphis cover the entire western conference playoff landscape. Each team has the ability to impact the Mavs playoff destination.

Tank-athon ranks Memphis with the toughest remaining schedule which is great news considering their current position 5 games back. Denver is ranked ninth and OKC 13th. Great figures! If the Mavericks can capitalize. Their success here quite possibly could determine the season’s outcome.

To be considered legitimately on the rise, the Mavericks must appear in a playoff series this season (barring injury of course). They’ll have to streamline their focus to take advantage of their schedule. These final 27 games are crammed into about two months.
So a streak of losses would be devastating. The adversity of fatigue only adds to the anxiety.  Which is why the playoffs aren’t as certain as initially thought.

Featured Image: Dallas Sports Nation
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