Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. After losing to the Miami Heat again on Saturday, their chances to make the Play-In tournament are also getting slimmer day by day.
Of course it is not yet too late for the Mavs to make a run for the Play-In spot. While a playoff berth is out of the question since the best Dallas can finish is at 41-41, the Play-In is a different story. However, it’s not going to be easy for Doncic and co. to qualify, and they will need a ton of help to get there.
With that said, let’s take a look at how Doncic and the Mavs can still make the Play-In as they continue their bid to get into the playoffs.
Mavs’ Play-In Outlook
With the loss to the Heat, the Mavs now own a 37-41 record. They are 11th in the Western Conference and one game behind the 10th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and two behind the ninth-placed Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dallas has four games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season. They will face the Atlanta Hawks next before taking on the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs.
Both the Thunder and Timberwolves also have four games each left as the campaign heads to its final week.
Since the Thunder and Timberwolves own the tiebreaker against Dallas–with both teams winning the season series 2-1–the Mavs basically need to win at least two games more than Oklahoma City and Minnesota in their last four.
Basically, Dallas must go 4-0 or 3-1 at worst to end the season. Meanwhile, they need to hope that the Thunder finish 1-3 or 2-2 (only if the Mavs can go unbeaten) for a chance to clinch the 10th seed.
As for the Timberwolves, two more wins will keep Jason Kidd’s away by virtue of the tiebreaker. Dallas can only pray that Minnesota goes 1-3 in their remaining games and they make it 4-0. Any other result will prevent them from surpassing the Wolves.
Luka Doncic, Mavs Still Have A Chance
Looking at the remaining games of the Thunder and Timberwolves, the Mavs have a better chance of surpassing Oklahoma City to get a Play-In spot.
Minnesota has games against the Damian Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers, star-less Brooklyn Nets and tanking San Antonio Spurs. Only the Pelicans really pose a big challenge for the Timberwolves. With that said, it’s safe to assume they can win at least two of their remaining games and secure a Play-In opportunity.
As for the Thunder, there’s a really good chance they go 1-3 in their last few games of the season. After all, they will be playing three playoff teams in the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies who are all battling for good playoff seeding. They could probably win their meeting with the Utah Jazz easily, but there’s no guarantee in their other matches.
This scenario should at least inspire confidence in Luka and the Mavs, as well as among the fans. It won’t be easy, but Dallas can take control of their destiny if they do it right in their remaining outings.
Dallas, We Still Have A Problem
Before fans start thinking that the Thunder are going to lose, though, the bigger concern for the Mavs is their own performance.
Luka Doncic and the rest of the team definitely can’t focus on how other teams will play considering that they haven’t been good since the All-Star break. While the Thunder’s situation could give them a path to the Play-In, they can only step on it if they can win all their remaining games.
The problem for Dallas is they haven’t really shown that they can win with the current roster they have. They are 3-9 in their last 12 games, with their few wins coming against a hapless Spurs side, an understaffed Indiana Pacers team and an unlucky Los Angeles Lakers squad.
Another issue for the Mavs is their defense, which is something they can’t resolve overnight. They traded away their best perimeter defender in Dorian Finney-Smith in the Kyrie Irving deal, and while it gave them another offensive weapon to back up Luka, it left them with a massive hole on the other side. Many thought it wouldn’t be an issue if Dallas can easily outscore their opponents, but the truth is they needed that defensive weapon to make sure they can protect their leads.
At the end of the day, Luka and Kyrie can only score so much and the team will have to pull off some stops to make sure they stay ahead. So far, they haven’t been able to do that.
Dallas has a chance to make the Play-In, and they are certainly capable of doing it. Nonetheless, execution matters and they have to be flawless from here on out.
It remains to be seen if they can pull off what can only be considered a miracle, but all we can do now is believe.
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