The Dallas Mavericks return to the playoffs to face Kawhi and the Clippers with their team looking as ready as they ever will take on their first postseason in 4 years.

NBA Bubble play could have gone a little better for the Dallas Mavericks, as they’ve gone 3-4 and sealed their fate to play Kawhi, PG and the dreaded Clippers during this 8 game restart.

They did, however, play competitively in all the games where they had 3 overtime games and only lost 1 of their games by more than 4 points (to the Clippers, yay!) Again, could have gone better, but not too bad either for a team that won 33 games a year ago.

The Ramp Up

Give all credit to Rick Carlisle and his staff for reading the restart timetable and planning how best to play their players. In arriving in Orlando, Carlisle discussed how the team had yet to even play together during their restart practices in Dallas, so the worry was that the rust would be real. However, the scrimmages allowed players to get their lungs back and it showed how well that worked as the Mavs went to OT in their return to REAL game action against the Rockets in a game who’s score would outdo some ALL-STAR games.

The next game, the Mavs looked to their young stars to carry the load as the role players seemed to go quiet. For instance, in their second game against the Suns, Luka and KP scored 70 of the teams 117 points in that loss. This can be viewed by an optimist who says “the duo is looking STRONG” and again by a pessimist who says “our bench is no help and we lost to the Suns”. Well to the optimist you can say that in the NBA, stars are who shine in the playoffs, so that’s very good.

And to the pessimist you can say that the Suns are looking to be the only team to go undefeated in bubble play, so a loss to them needs some perspective AND that the absence of the players that you trusted all year will be short lived.

After suffering 2 clutch losses, the Mavs played the Kings in a game where it looked like we were headed in the wrong direction just as we had clinched a playoff spot. Through 3 quarters, the baffling Kings seemed to have the Mavs number, yet in the 4th, the team seemed to fully find themselves again. They locked in defensively and took the game to OT and won with a somewhat newfound grit, at least for their Bubble play.

The Mavs suffered a tough loss to the Clippers after that, but they played them competitively in the first half and stayed connected throughout the majority of the second. After that, they played a GREAT game against the #1 team in the NBA with the best defense in the league in the Bucks and Giannis. Yet another OT game, but it was a wild ride that showed they can play with the best and stand tall.

After a signature Bubble win, the Mavs had a back to back on the schedule that got Luka, KP and Dorian some rest AND allowed the team the opportunity to get some of their lagging role players a chance to find their rhythm before the playoffs showed up. The Mavs got excellent play from the exact players they needed to see excel with THJ and Seth Curry scoring 49 points and going a combined 7 of 12 from 3PT range. This Mavs team needs at least one of those 2 players to score at least 20 a game to stand a chance in the playoffs. Again, Carlisle and his staff show some brilliance in their timing and rhythm of their player usage and rotations to ramp this team towards the ultimate goal of a good playoff run.

With their fate in their hands and their last chance to move out of the 7th seed, the Mavs played an absolute barn burner of a game against Dame Time and the Blazers. The Mavs may have lost, but they played like a team who is locked in and fully ready to go.

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No matter what happens against the Suns, the Mavs are locked into playing the Clippers next week for the most important series of their young careers. The Suns are playing for their playoff chances and the Mavs are playing to stay fresh for next week. Odds are that even if Luka and KP play, it will be limited so they can get reps, yet stay healthy.

Batman & Batman

Luka and KP are absolutely firing on all cylinders headed into playoff play.

Somehow Luka has effortlessly shown another gear he can get to and KP is looking very tight offensively.

For perspective, Luka is averaging 3 pts, 1.5 rbs, and 2.3 asts better than his season average and KP is averaging 10.1 pts (?!) better than he has all season while staying constant on the other stats. This is Luka’s team, but KP is no second fiddle. The two stagger like Houston has done with Harden and CP3 or Harden and Westbrook so there is virtually no time with both players off the floor. These players are ready to taste their first playoff action of their young careers and it shows how badly they want it.

Luka is playing better defense and arguing with the refs less while KP is cutting to the basket with more efficiency than he has all year and also turning the ball over far less due his better handles. These players are putting in the work. They will be the reason that the Mavs have success or not in the playoffs, but they are more than ready to shoulder the burden.

Playing the Clippers will show this team where their deficiencies lie, but also reveal which of their players have that next level competitiveness that can lead to a championship down the road.
It may not be a long playoff run, but these Mavs are ready to show the NBA how close they are to contention.

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