The Dallas Mavericks are in the middle of a historic eight-game homestand with a lot of winnable games during the first week. After surprisingly blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 109-86, in the last game of the three-game road trip, the Mavs started the homestand with a less-than-spectacular win against the Boston Celtics and laid an egg against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even the heroics of Monta Ellis couldn’t stop them losing an overtime game against a Timberwolves team who were 22 points up in the second quarter.
Dallas couldn’t hold the New Jersey Nets from a fourth quarter rally, dropping the Mavs to a 2-2 record through the first four games of the eight-game homestand. The Nets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, who had won 10 of their last 12 games. Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon left during the first minute of the game after suffering a facial injury which is considered not serious and is expected to return to the team on Tuesday.
Every week, I pretend to be a basketball oracle and predict the Mavericks’ future when they are anything but predictable this season, except when they play the San Antonio Spurs. Here I am again to predict the second leg of the homestand.
Last 4 games of the homestand: Oklahoma City Thunder, March 25th; Los Angeles Clippers, March 27th; Sacramento Kings, March 29th; and Golden State Warriors, April 1st.
Forecast: Tough, with a lot of match up issues.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Mavs were finally competitive against an Oklahoma City team that beat Dallas eleven times in a row before their last bout, in which the Mavs completely dismantled the Thunder, 109 – 86. Oklahoma City decided to rest Russell Westbrook, as they were playing the first of back-to-back games. They could decide to do so again, as they’ll be on a second night of back-to-back games when they roll into the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night. This isn’t much of an advantage, but the Mavs will exploit them if Oklahoma City goes with both point guard Derek Fisher and small forward Caron Butler for extended minutes, like they did the last time these two teams met.
It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks manages Westbrook over the last few games here. Even though an MRI on Westbrook’s knee came back negative, it is something to keep an eye on.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Mavs will once again play a team on a second night of a back-to-back at the American Airlines Center as the Clippers come to town on March 27th. The Clippers play in New Orleans on March 26th before making the trip to Dallas the following night, this time the Clippers should have their point guard, Chris Paul, in their lineup.
These two teams have faced each other twice this year, with the Clippers getting the upper hand both in Dallas, 119-112, on January 3rd, and in Los Angeles, 129-127, on January 15th. The Clippers are the best offensive team in the NBA, with an offensive rating of 109.2, and one of the top seven teams defensively with a rating of 101.4. Even though the Clippers are a very efficient team, the Mavs shouldn’t have lost the two games when these two teams faced off.
The Mavs were in control in both of these games and lost their collective composure in the final minutes. If the Mavs shoot well and keep up with them like they have done, I expect them to right the wrong this time around.
Sacramento Kings: Sacramento will be the third team the Mavs will play on a second night of back-to-back games this week, but they aren’t one of the better ones Dallas will face in these last four games. These two teams have faced off twice so far this season, each winning one game a piece.
Rudy Gay, Sacramento’s small forward, is averaging 20.3 points per game since being traded from the Toronto Raptors, center DeMarcus Cousins usually plays extremely well against the Mavericks, though he was not in the lineup when these two teams faced off in Dallas, but he had a dominant 32-point, 19 rebound game in Sacramento back on December 9th.
While I’m very scared of the prospect of Samuel Dalembert versus Cousins, but if he doesn’t get into foul trouble early in the game, I expect the Mavs to win this one pretty comfortably.
Golden State Warriors: This is an absolute must-win game for the Mavs. So far this season, the Warriors lead the season series 2-1, with both teams winning each of their respective games at home. The last time these two teams faced each other, it wasn’t the “Splash Brothers” who rolled them, it wasn’t center David Lee, it was point guard Jordan Crawford, who was dynamite from behind the three-point arc. Crawford scored a team high of 19 points against Dallas back on March 11th, and the Warriors absolutely demolished the Mavericks, 108-85.
The Spurs beat the Warriors on Saturday, which means the Mavs inched half a game closer even without stepping on the court. Golden State now has five days off, which means the Mavs might find themselves ahead of the Warriors before they play another game. It’s definitely a pivotal game and the Mavs have to win this to finish sixth in the Western Conference and avoid the Thunder in the playoffs.
Prediction: 3-1 Mavs beat the Clippers, Kings, and Warriors but lose to Oklahoma City.