Dallas heads back to the playoffs, but with how the seeding games have gone, how far can they go?
The Dallas Mavericks have secured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 prompting the Mavs GOAT himself to give his team props.
Mavs are back in the playoffs!!! Can’t wait. Let’s go!!!
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) August 3, 2020
Granted, this playoff return has not been by the Mavs doing, as they have lost 2 of their 3 games since play has resumed in the NBA Bubble. The Mavs are returning to the playoffs simply by the Memphis Grizzlies ALSO losing their first 2 games of NBA action, which separates the teams just enough to lock the Mavs in AT WORST in the 7th seed.
As it stands now of 8/5, the 7th seed would have the Mavs matching up with Kawhi, PG13, and the dreaded Clippers who have had the Mavs’ number all season. It is POSSIBLE for the matchup to change, but as each day and game passes, it seems increasingly likely that the two teams will see each other in round 1 of the playoffs, as per free basketball predictions.
Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News lets us know precisely how likely this really is:
Per @bball_ref, the Mavericks’ odds of finishing 7th in West increased from 78.7% entering last night to 92.9% after.
Meanwhile, the Clippers’ odds of finishing 2nd are 92.7%.
There you have it. About as locked in to a 2-7 match-up as it gets.http://t.co/CNNTTiKHJp
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) August 3, 2020
So with a nearly surefire matchup, the Mavs should stop worrying about the wins and losses of their remaining 5 games and focus on the ways they need to improve in order to play the Clippers competitively.
It has been clear that the Mavs can load up the scoreboard in their first 2 games back in action, scoring a total of 270 points over the first 2 games. However, these points have not translated to wins over the 4th seed Rockets nor the 12th seed Suns.
It seems like KP and Luka are ready and rearing to go, combining for 70 of the Mavs’ 117 points vs the Suns, which points to a glaring lack of backup offense from the supporting cast. In the Rockets game, Trey Burke put up a career-high of 32 points, but no one has been able to provide reliable offense. In their win in game 3 vs the Kings, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 22 and Dorian Finney-Smith brought 16 to the party, hence the Mavs securing a win.
If Luka or KP have an off shooting night, the question remains whether or not this team will be able to step up for their superstars. While it’s only 3 games, that’s still 37.5% of the total games before the Mavs enter playoff basketball where the level of play raises immensely. If the Mavs want to have a chance, they need their supporting cast to get back into rhythm. Seth Curry was a perfect 6/6 from the floor, scoring 23 points, in the scrimmage vs the Lakers, but since then has seemed completely out of sorts. Either Seth or THJ needs to bring roughly 20 points a night to put the Mavs in a position to compete.
Additionally, players like Maxi Kleber need to return to their regular-season form. For the rest of the season, Maxi has shot 36.9% from 3PT range, but in the bubble, Maxi is shooting 20% from deep. That will not cut it against a team that defends as well as the Clippers.
The Dallas Mavericks may have the most prolific offense in NBA history, but any old school fan will tell you that defense wins championships. During bubble play, the Mavs have given up 149 points to the 4th place Rockets, 115 to the 12th place Suns, and 110 to the 13th place Kings. These are not good numbers against any team and especially teams that are struggling to stay in contention and don’t have the star-powered players like the Clippers.
The Mavs are allowing far too many 3s from teams, and not always from the star players. Cam Payne and Cam Johnson scored a combined 6 3s on the Mavs when the Suns took them down. Danuel House Jr. and Ben McLemore combined for 10 3s for the Rockets in that loss. Clearly, perimeter defense is not the Mavs strong suit and players like Kawhi, who is shooting 37.3% from distance this year and Paul George who’s shooting 40.9% from deep will be a major problem for the Mavs come playoff time.
Defending without fouling has also been a major issue for the Mavs. Porzingis alone has gotten 14 personal fouls over 3 games. Clearly, it’s not good for your team’s primary paint defender and shot blocker. And he’s not alone because the Mavs had 3 players who fouled out of the Rockets game with Dorian (our best overall defender), Seth (our best sharpshooter) and Luka (our best player) all getting 6 fouls in a playoff-like game. By the way, KP had 5 fouls in that game as well, so he’s not clear from blame either.
Even with a player like James Harden on the court who draws fouls better than anyone, the Clippers actually attempt more free throws per game than the Rockets, so that does not bode well for a Mavs matchup. Mavs need to work on defending close without fouling as they play their last 6 games of the “regular season”.
While this has PRIMARILY been a “doom and gloom” article, the Mavs showed some moxie against the Kings that they hadn’t shown before. The Mavs played their 2nd OT game of the restart and had their first lead since the game was 4-3 about a minute into the game when THJ hit a 3 with 4:21 left in OT. From that point on, you could see the Mavs playing staunch defense and really owning how important this win was to them. If the Mavs take that focus and energy into the remaining seeding games and focus in on defense, they can be ready to meet the Clippers in round 1 of the playoffs.
Additionally, the high likelihood of the Mavs meeting the Clippers in round 1 is NOT guaranteed. The Mavs are only 2 games back from OKC for the 6th seed, which could have them match up with the Denver Nuggets, whom they have played well this year. Also, the Nuggets are only 1 game back of the Clippers for the 2nd seed and could feasibly overtake them for that spot. The irony being that if BOTH of those things happen, the Mavs would then play the Clippers by rising a spot. This is to say that even with the HIGH probability that the seeding is set for the Mavs, sports has taught us all that “ain’t nothin’ over til it’s over”.
The Mavs will get a chance to show whether they’ve turned a corner in closing out the Kings game and are truly READY to meet playoff basketball OR if they are looking at a humiliating sweep from the Clippers in round one when they take them on Thursday afternoon. This game can serve as the rude awakening this team needs to kick them into gear or the disheartening beatdown that will show how truly inexperienced they are, but only time will tell.
Rick Carlisle had better be focused on prepping for the Clippers Thursday and beyond if his young team is going to have any real chance of playing spoiler to Kawhi and PG13’s newly christened superteam in LA.
The Mavs are back in the playoffs and it doesn’t matter if it’s in the bubble or not.
We get to see Luka and KP get their first taste of the best the NBA has to offer and there’s nothing better than that.
Featured Image: Kim Klement/Dallas Morning News