A win is always a good thing, but tonight’s victory for the Dallas Mavericks over the Philadelphia 76ers was meaningful for quite a few reasons. The schedule for the Mavs was relatively light to begin the year. That seemed ideal at the time considering Dirk Nowitzki was aiming to return from knee surgery by Thanksgiving. A perfect situation would have been for the young Mavericks to stay afloat against the easier part of the schedule and have Nowitzki back in time for the first round of heavy lifting in the 2012-13 season. The good news is that the Mavs did stay afloat, going 11-10 through their first 21 games. The bad news is that Nowitzki is still on the shelf, with no set date to returns. The worse news is that the Mavs’ schedule reads as such after tonight’s 107-100 win over Philadelphia: vs. Miami, at Memphis, at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, vs. Denver, and vs. San Antonio.
It would be tough to hand pick a gauntlet much tougher than that.
With no Dirk and little hope being given to the Mavs without him, they will have to play well beyond themselves to save the season. With the given schedule, it is more than possible that Dallas could go 1-6 over that stretch, including tonight’s win against Philadelphia. If that scenario presents itself, then the Mavs would be a frightening 12-19 when the calendar flips to 2013. If that were the case, they’d have to play 29-22 over the rest of the season JUST to get back to .500, a record that won’t get you to the playoffs in the Western Conference.
In the most simple of terms, poor performances over the next six games would be catastrophic for the Mavericks.
If there was ever a time for Darren Collison to step up to another level and support new head-Mav OJ Mayo, that time would be now. Collison has been an enigma since Dallas acquired him in the offseason, losing his starting job and finding himself taking up permanent residence in Rick Carlisle’s doghouse. It’s likely none of that will affect Collison’s minutes heading into this stretch, as now-starting point guard Derek Fisher suffered a strained right knee on Tuesday night. If Fisher’s injury is serious, Collison will get the majority of the point guard minutes simply because of the numbers game. Carlisle may not be happy with Collison’s production this season, but he’s simply running out of options at point guard.
Little known NBA fact: Somebody does have to be on the court, dribbling the basketball for each team.
Actually, that may be the theme so far for the Mavs this season. Rick Carlisle has had so little trust in his guards outside of anyone not named after a condiment that he brought in 38-year old Fisher to run his offense. Dallas leads the league in different combinations of starting lineups this year for that exact reason. Carlisle can’t find a lineup he likes with Nowitzki out and he won’t sit around to let the same guys lose games for his franchise. The Mavs may be performing poorly, but Carlisle refuses to let them stand pat.
The irony for Carlisle hits hard during this upcoming, potentially season defining stretch. Over the next twelve days, that same Nowitzki-less roster that he can’t allow himself to trust will be exactly who holds the season in their hands.
Expect some sleepless night for Rick Carlisle during the holidays.