The Dallas Mavericks will finish off the the month of February versus two sub-.500 teams, the New York Knicks and the New Orleans Pelicans, while also matching up against a middle-of-the-pack 29-26 Chicago Bulls squad. The Mavs have had an extremely solid month, going 7-2 so far, while also dominating the Eastern Conference’s best, Indiana Pacers. Although the Mavs have hit their stride as of late, going 8-2 in their last 10 games, the real test of this teams unity, fortitude, and overall talent will occur in the month of March.
The San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers highlight the Mavs daunting month of March. Five out of these six teams are ranked in the top five playoff spots in their respective conferences, and they could all make or break the season for the Mavs. They go into March hoping to limit Tony Parker floaters, Steph Curry pull-up 3’s, Kevin Durant 40-point games, and mind blowing slams from Blake Griffin, all while clawing for a higher playoff spot. Unfortunately for Mavs fans, the race to the playoffs will get even bumpier, and we could all be seeing the calm before the storm.
March could either leave fans dejected and disappointed at this years club, or filled with hope of having a competitive playoff run. And in all honesty, with the lackluster past two seasons, MFFL’s (Mavs Fans For Life) just want to see their team have a chance to make a splash in playoffs, because they know that when Dirk Nowitzki is on your side, almost anything is possible.
By the Numbers
In my opinion the most important stats to the Mavs success in March, the one’s that will ultimately speak the loudest regarding their win-loss record and ability to make the playoffs, are the minutes per game guys like Dirk, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter will be playing, Dirk’s shot attempts per game, turnovers per game, and making sure Jae Crowder takes the least amount of playing time and/or shots as possible (kidding! Well slightly…).
The Mavs will need their veterans like Dirk(30.6 min/game), Marion(31.3 min/game), and Carter (23.6 min/game) to be fresh once playoff season comes around. One way to achieve this would to possibly give them a day off here or there when they face a lower level of competition. How about implementing a Gregg Popovich-esque type system in which the older players are designated days and games off to help the body heal at a faster pace? You will see Mavs fans scoff at this idea, but when you actually think about it, why wouldn’t you want your soon-to-be 36-year-old superstar getting some rest every now and then against teams like the Utah Jazz or the Boston Celtics, both of whom are on their March schedule. Coach Carlisle has already sat Dirk once this year so he could get some rest( January 22nd against the Toronto Raptors), and it will be interesting to see how he manages the rest of his older guys from March through the remainder of the season. Let’s just hope the Mavs are in a position to give Dirk a few more (DNP-CD) before playoff time arrives.
Whenever Dirk is shooting the ball, it’s usually a good thing for the Dallas Mavericks. This month, Dirk is averaging 13.7 field goal attempts per game, which is a pretty significant drop off from his January and December clips of 16.9 and 17.6 respectively. In order for the Mavs to be more efficient on the offensive end, I would say Dirk should be in the 16 to 18 field goal attempts per game. As I am writing this, of course Dirk would hit the wacky game winner over Carmelo Anthony to hand the Mavs their 35th win of this season. The way I currently see things, never-mind my earlier nonsense, just give Dirk every shot of every game ever.
Being as offensively oriented as this team is, it is so crucial that the Mavs value each possession as if it is their last, because when your defense is as lifeless as their’s is at times, you can’t just give the ball to the other team very often. This month, the Mavs are averaging 12.6 turnovers per game and this number must remain there or it has to get smaller. You can’t be turning the ball over when the likes of Tony Parker, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are leading the fast break to the other end looking to make you pay for your irresponsibility. The Mavs are currently ranked fifth overall in turnovers per game, only giving the ball away an acceptable 13.3 times per contest. This trend must continue in March in order for the Mavs to beat some of the tops teams throughout this month.
In my AP Psychology class(Thanks Mrs. Clayton for being a splendid teacher, but can you please take it easy with the quizzes and tests?), we recently dove into the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the four F’s(food, fight, fleeing, and…well you know). These are the four basic drives and mindsets that humans are supposed to be able to complete successfully. The reason I am bringing this up is because the Mavs, during the month of March, will have to either fight and compete at their highest level, or flee and miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
It’s up to Dirk and company to prevent the month of March from turning into a month long basketball style horror-flick.