Despite last night’s nail-biting loss to Portland, the Dallas Mavericks have clawed their way into the Western Conference playoff discussion.
Of course, there is a large segment of the fan base aghast at the prospect of playoff contention. Conventional wisdom says the Dallas Mavericks need to tank, thus securing a lottery pick and a potential return to NBA relevance. In theory, this is a fine strategy. In reality, this team is coached by Rick Carlisle. Oh, and there’s that Dirk Nowitzki guy, too. “Tanking” is not an option.
While this is a source of frustration to many, these are the facts. A concerted effort to lose games will not happen. So we all need to accept that a push to the postseason is the only logical conclusion. Given a relative level of health moving forward, this bunch is currently playing well enough to do just that.
The catalyst at the heart of this surge is point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. Inexplicably, this so-called no-name from the University of Indiana descended upon Dallas and injected some much needed life into what’s been a largely forgettable season.
Granted, the team had somewhat turned a corner prior to Ferrell’s arrival. Guard Seth Curry was in the midst of easily his best month of the season, averaging 15.5 points per game in February before Yogi’s emergence. Additionally, guard/forward Wesley Matthews seems especially rejuvenated lately.
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It’s been a long time coming, but the Mavs have been slowly morphing into a signature Rick Carlisle team. A series of castoffs and odd-fitting parts jelling and overachieving, if you will. Ferrell’s insertion into the lineup simply expedited the process. This culminated in four-game winning streak where the Mavericks stunned the Spurs and Cavs, and beat two very game squads in Philadelphia and Portland. It is no coincidence that they were playing their most inspired, free-flowing basketball of the year. Would you rather have the high draft pick? Sure. Winning sure is fun, though.
Of course, the good times have come to a halt–to a degree. A cold shooting night in Denver and a dramatic last-second loss at home to the Portland Trail Blazers have put the damper on this mini run. It would have been nice to seal the deal last night, especially since Dirk drained a go-ahead three with 3.9 seconds left. Problem was, there was 3.9 seconds left. Blazers’ guard CJ McCollum split a double team and put the winning bucket home with 0.3 seconds left to steal the win.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to look at the bright side. Ferrell parlayed his lightning-fast ascension into a two-year contract. If he continues to display the skill to perform at this level, you can almost squint and see a few nice building blocks in place for the post-Dirk era.
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The other aspect of this entertaining push is that we’ve officially entered the post-football/pre-baseball lull in the sports season. With the Cowboys put to bed until July and the Stars and their continual vanishing act, the Dallas Mavericks will provide plenty to talk about as winter turns to spring. Enjoy it. Dirk Nowitzki won’t be around much longer.