Individual performances for the Mavericks have been breathtaking lately.
Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. are working on back-to-back triple doubles, the first time in franchise history different players have achieved the feat in consecutive games.
Doncic may or may not be headed to the All-Star Game. We’ll find that out Thursday night.
Dirk Nowitzki turned back the clock in New York with a season-best 14 points in the blowout win over the Knicks on Wednesday. Nowitzki and Smith, along with Doncic, will all be going to All-Star weekend for various festivities.
Others, like Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes, have had strong showings in recent games.
And, to be sure, the buzz about individual accomplishments is nice.
However, the bigger picture needs some attention as the Mavericks dive head first into the pivotal stretch drive before the All-Star break.
They have won three of four games to climb to 23-27, 12th in the Western Conference and 4 ½ games out of the playoffs.
Making a surge in the final seven games before the lengthy All-Star break is imperative, starting with the final two games on the frozen-tundra road trip that they started with a bang.
The Mavericks play at Detroit Thursday, the second half of back-to-back games. Then they are at Cleveland Saturday. After a three-day rest, they have four of their last five at home. That will take them to 57 games played before the All-Star Game.
To achieve their goal of making a serious playoff push in the final 25 games of the season, it’s vital that the Mavericks take care of business now. They have started to play better basketball recently after the lull that landed them at 20-26 last week, their low-water mark for the season in terms of games below .500. While coaches and players have to play games one at a time, we can play them all at once. And if the Mavericks can get to 28-29 before the break, they’d be in the conversation about making a playoff run in February and March. That would require them to go 5-2 in the next seven games.
As Barnes said recently: “We have to win games, that’s the bottom line. If we can string together a few more wins and get ourselves back to .500, then we’ll be in a position that we can make a run at this thing. But right now, we just have to put our heads down and grind out wins.”
The Mavericks already have 23 of those. They had 24 all of last season. But eclipsing that win total isn’t the priority. Getting in playoff position is.
So while the Mavericks are like their fans and happy about the way a lot of individuals are playing and receiving accolades, the better byproduct of those accomplishments is that it’s getting the Mavericks back where they want to be – in the playoff hunt.