There isn’t much time for the Dallas Mavericks to get on track this regular season. The goal is obviously to find some momentum and consistency before the playoffs hit, but this season is different in Dallas as the postseason isn’t yet assured with just a few games remaining.
After last night’s meeting with Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets, the regular season game count fell to three. Losing recent winnable against the Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Utah Jazz haven’t made things any easier, but that’s the reality Dallas faces in a season that has provided so much uncertainty.
Uncertainty hasn’t just been a recurring theme throughout the NBA, but it’s specifically been one in the Mavericks’ locker room. A lot still needs to be decided with the regular season so close to being over and that includes the Dallas player rotation.
“I don’t have a definite rotation laid out,” Mavs’ Coach Rick Carlisle said when pressed about the subject before the game against Houston. “It’s an ongoing evaluation, really. We don’t have a 100% answer. The guys have done a good job of being ready.”
Most of the Mavericks may have ‘been ready’ this year, but the last two games of their recent road trip didn’t produce the result they wanted. Despite going to four total overtimes against a good team (The Lakers) and a desperate team (The Jazz), the Mavericks just couldn’t overcome some of the late-game mistakes they have begun to make during close games.
Just losing those two games wasn’t the only negative impact for the Mavs. As one of the older teams in the league, having to put so much effort into a game without getting the win is a double whammy. Specifically, despite being limited to mostly 30 minutes or less for most of each game this season, Mavs point guard Jason Kidd felt the brunt of those overtime games by playing 42 minutes per game over the stretch. Obviously the Mavs would like the keep the minutes limited for Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry in order to save their energy for the playoffs, but that’s simply not a luxury they have with the playoffs not assured.
In a fight of their own for the playoffs, the Rockets came to town tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and a game and a half behind the Mavericks for the seventh seed. Also looking to avoid the season series sweep from the Mavericks, the Rockets needed a win Wednesday night even more than their North Texas counterpart.
Nowitzki, Terry, and Vince Carter simply wouldn’t let it happen. With Nowitzki and Terry providing their usual torture to the Rockets with 35 and 19 points respectively, it was Carter who provided the extra lift with a season-high 23 points. With the 117-110 win, the Mavs moved into a virtual tie with the Denver Nuggets for the seventh seed and the Rockets moved closer toward vacation than they did the postseason with their fifth consecutive loss.
The playoffs essentially started weeks ago for the Mavericks who have had to fight for their spot in the top eight of the Western Conference. With a couple more performances like tonight, they will continue their playoffs for at least one series.