While the Mavs continue to climb the Western Conference standings, a Warriors team without Stephen Curry is struggling to find its identity heading into the playoffs.
Except it would. And it would put the Mavericks one step closer to fulfilling their championship dreams.
The Dallas Mavericks continue to climb the West standings
The Mavs were 17-18 at the end of December. A berth in the play-in tournament looked like it would be the team’s postseason ceiling.
But since the turn of the calendar, Dallas has gone 29-11 and moved up to fourth place in the West.
Doncic is, of course, the catalyst. Luka’s stats in 2022 — and since February in particular — have vaulted him into the NBA MVP conversation.
But a deadline-day trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans has been another critical catalyst.
Dinwiddie has become Dallas’s second-leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game in his 17 games with the Mavs. He’s become a critical second banana to Luka as another backcourt scorer and creator.
And Dallas continues to get better — the team is 10-4 in March.
A win over the Lakers would check off another box in the Mavs quest for a championship.
A win over the Lakers would move the Mavs one game closer to a No. 3 seed
If the season ended on March 29, Dallas would face the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round.
The Mavs beat Utah 114-110 on March 27, but Rudy Gobert — who has caused issues for Doncic throughout his career — didn’t play.
Still, the Mavericks bypassed the Jazz for fourth and now sit just 1.5 games behind Golden State, which is playing without Curry and is 1-6 in its last seven games.
The Dubs’ next two games are against the NBA-best Phoenix Suns and the Jazz.
A Dallas team on a three-month winning binge with an MVP candidate at the helm seems like a safe bet to pass a struggling Warriors team playing without its star for the rest of the regular season.
The Mavericks will be rolling into the playoffs with momentum, regardless. But they could also be rolling in with the advantage of having home-court advantage in at least the opening round.
Dallas is proving it’s a different team this year than in past Luka seasons
Doncic has yet to win a playoff series in his young NBA career. Hosting one would be a welcome change.
Since he arrived in February, Dinwiddie has been a massive addition. Luka has never had a backcourt partner to help take the scoring load off his shoulders and his burden.
This is a different Dallas team.
“That’s what we wanted, but it’s a long way to go,” Doncic said of moving past Utah in the standings, per ESPN. “We’ve still got to keep our composure, focus on the next opponent and try to win every game.”
It’s true; there is a long way to go. And if the Mavs want to keep moving up the standings, they do need to try and win every game.
But moving past the Jazz and into fourth — with a real shot at landing the No. 3 seed — would be significant.
And at this point in the season, every win counts. Even a win over the hapless Lakers would move Doncic and Dallas one step closer to their championship aspirations.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.