This last stretch saw the Mavericks play 10 games in 16 days and came at the end of a month in which Dallas played 19 in 32. January was a physically and mentally demanding month, and the fact that more than half of those games came against playoff teams only added to the challenge.

But Dallas now plays three of its next four games at home before a lengthy All-Star break which should give every player a chance to rest and recharge heading into what is quite literally the home stretch — coming out of the break, Dallas plays nine of 11 games at American Airlines Center. While the Mavericks still have plenty of difficult games remaining on the schedule, many of those games will come at home, and with more days in between games.

Before we get there, though, let’s take a look back at some of the major trends which have developed in the last 10 games.

Chandler Parsons at the 4

The Mavs’ budding star has spent more and more time at the power forward spot lately, and it’s already paid dividends. The 6-foot-10 Parsons has a speed and quickness advantage over most power forwards in the NBA without giving up much size or strength, even when it comes to rebounding, which has been one of Rick Carlisle’s biggest concerns with the move.

Dirk Nowitzki missed two of the last 10 games for rest and another due to a knee effusion, which gave Parsons even more exposure to the 4 spot. In those 10 games, the Mavericks have scored 1.142 points per possession in 181 minutes with Parsons on the floor and both Nowitzki and Charlie Villanueva — Dallas’ two primary power forwards — off the floor, per nbawowy. In that time, the Mavs have a 53.9 effective field goal percentage and 57.4 true shooting percentage, indications that the offense has thrived in those opportunities. On an individual level, Parsons has 64.8 eFG and 67.9 TS percentages in those situations, scoring 1.46 points per possession. Moreover, he’s turned it over just four times in 344 possessions and has assisted 8.8 percent of his teammates’ made shots while he’s on the floor. In fact, the Mavs’ four best lineups by net rating in the last 10 games all include Parsons at power forward.

Lineup Minutes Played Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Williams, Felton, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 27 121.0 80.7 40.3
Barea, Williams, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 16 137.6 113.9 37.0
Williams, Harris, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 19 113.9 87.3 26.5
Barea, Williams, Matthews, Parsons, Mejri 13 130.3 112.6 17.7

None of this is to say the Mavericks are better without Nowitzki and Villanueva, or playing Parsons strictly at the 4 and not at small forward. It simply gives the Mavericks a different option Carlisle can tap in various situations throughout a game, especially if the matchup favors Parsons and Dallas. And as long as Parsons continues the run he’s been on — averaging 21.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last nine games on 54.3 percent shooting and 52.8 percent from deep — the Mavs might as well continue to ride the hot hand.


Salah the Sensation

Salah Mejri earned an opportunity to play heavy minutes and even start a couple games in recent weeks after Zaza Pachulia sat out due to injury. Mejri impressed against Oklahoma City early in January and then again against the same club a week later, blocking both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the span of just a few minutes. Mejri started the next game in Houston and recorded a double-double, and overall he averaged 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds during this 10-game stretch.

After playing for years overseas, most recently with Spanish club Real Madrid, Mejri is a pro basketball veteran despite this being his first season in the Association. His experience means the moment isn’t too big for him, and that goes a long way toward explaining why he’s been able to make such an impact even in high-leverage moments like the closing minutes of the Thunder game on Jan. 22.

Mejri brings a bit of a combination of what Pachulia and JaVale McGee offer individually. He’s got the finishing ability and athleticism to remind you of McGee, while playing with the touch and skill reminiscent of Pachulia. Defensively, he’s got McGee’s shot-blocking instincts but Pachulia’s workmanlike attitude. Among the three-headed monster that is the Mavs’ center rotation, Mejri is perhaps the most intriguing, if only because we’ve seen what he can do in flashes but not necessarily over an extended period of time. It will be interesting to see how Carlisle manages the minutes moving forward, although it should be noted Mejri missed last night’s game in Atlanta after tweaking his knee.


Clutch dominance in last 10 games

The Mavs’ crunch-time success this season has been well-chronicled, but they performed even better in the clutch — defined as anytime in the last five minutes or overtime when the score is within five points either way — in the last few weeks than what we’ve been used to.

Since Jan. 17, the Mavericks have played 27 clutch minutes across five games. The Mavs have a 127.7 offensive rating and 69.0 defensive rating in those situations, and their 58.7 net rating leads the NBA during that time. So, too, does their 4.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

For the season, Dallas’ 123.6 offensive rating in the clutch leads the NBA and its 26.8 net rating is second-best in all of basketball, behind only Golden State. Given the Mavericks have played more clutch minutes (136) than every team except the Bulls, those efficiency stats are significant. Dallas is 17-11 in games when clutch minutes have been played. Only Houston and Memphis have more wins (18 each) in those circumstances. The ability to close out tight games can only help the Mavericks come playoff time, when every possession’s importance is magnified and the lights shine brightest. This is a team full of players unafraid of the moment, beginning with Nowitzki and Deron Williams, who have been two of the best clutch performers all season.

Other dribbles…

  • After missing three games with an injury, Zaza Pachulia returned back to the lineup last Friday against Brooklyn. In the three games since his return, he’s averaging 9.7 points and 13.3 rebounds. It’s safe to say Pachulia is the best rebounder on this team, and considering his athletic ability relative to some of the other leading glass-eaters in the league, Pachulia might do more with less than any other NBA player. He’s so crafty and uses his body so well. It’s very easy to not even notice some of the contributions he makes to this team — a screen here or there, bothering an opponent, or grabbing a board — but the best way to realize just how valuable a player can be is to see his team play without him. Pachulia was missed in those three games, and the Mavs are happy now to have him back.

  • 2016-02-02 09_59_03-Standings - Official Website of the Dallas MavericksIt’s getting closer and closer to the moment when we’ll all start taking a daily look at the Western Conference standings. Right now, Dallas has actually found a small pocket of space in what’s otherwise an extremely tight West, trailing fifth-place Memphis by two games and leading seventh-place Houston by 2.5. The Rockets are in the midst of a 20-game stretch with 15 coming on the road. This is a good time for the Mavs to gain some separation from their in-state rivals.

    Beneath Houston, however, is where it really gets interesting. Currently, Portland and Utah are tied for eighth place, each 1.5 games behind Houston. Sacramento is 1.5 games back of those two, and both Denver and New Orleans are only 2. behind the Kings. All told, five teams are vying for the eighth seed, and the Rockets are in danger of making that a six-team race for two spots. The Mavs would do well to keep winning and avoid that pack, but with a stretch beginning tomorrow with 13-out-of-16 games at home, Dallas can maintain its lead and potentially even gain on Memphis and the fourth-place Clippers.

    No matter what happens, you know the West is going to be close and crazy down the stretch, because it always is. It might not take 50 wins just to make the playoffs this season, but it’s going to be dramatic as ever.

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