Wednesday night couldn’t get much better for the Dallas Mavericks. They beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-89, while the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors were both blown out. As it stands, the Mavericks are sixth in the Western Conference standings and are 10-2 in the month February.
But this is when the real season starts.
February featured the Mavs playing the likes of the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. Starting this upcoming week there aren’t many more soft teams to feast on as the Mavs will have to play the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now I’m not saying this tough schedule is going to hinder the Mavericks from making the playoffs, but it really is gut check time for this team. They’ve done what they’ve had to do against inferior competition, which is great, but this team needs to prove they can beat good teams on a consistent basis.
The Mavs have the talent to survive this tough March, and they are clicking at the right time. The Mavs bench trio of Devin Harris, Vince Carter and Brandan Wright are giving teams, even the good ones, headaches while the Dirk Nowitzki/Monta Ellis dynamic duo remains extremely explosive.
The Mavs’ defense is what is going to be the issue this month. Granted, their defense has been better over the past month but playing inferior competition has a lot to do with that. LeBron James burned the Mavs about a week ago and Carmelo Anthony dropped 44 on them just a few days back. Carmelo’s Knicks are a terrible team, so the Mavs were able to squeak out a win, but we all saw what happened when LeBron went off with the Heat. This is why the realization that the Mavs have to play Kevin Durant and the Thunder twice in March is absolute horrifying.
For the Mavs to have a shot against the likes of the Thunder and the Spurs they are going to have to play solid team defense. They aren’t going to stop someone like Durant, but they can at least make him work for everything he gets. It all starts with Samuel Dalembert at center. When Dalembert plays focused and looks like he at least sort of cares, this team is dangerous. If not, then forget it.
I still think Dallas is going to make the playoffs as one of the last three seeds in the Western Conference. They already hold the tiebreaker over the Memphis Grizzlies and are playing more consistent basketball than teams like the Warriors and Suns. The Mavericks also hold a distinct coaching advantage over all of those teams with Rick Carlisle and we can’t forget that Dirk is playing spectacular basketball.
The Mavs have all the pieces to really show the league what they really are this March. They need to show the Western Conference that not only are they going to make the playoffs, but they are going to give teams headaches when they get in.
This March is the perfect opportunity to do just that.