Ten days ago, the Mavericks were staring down the barrel of an imposing stretch of their schedule.
Ahead of them were five consecutive games against teams above them in the Western Conference standings and things could have gone either way.
The Mavericks came out of those five games with a 3-2 record, which fell short of awesome but was a lot better than awful.
They survived it and didn’t lose any ground in the West standings.
Now, it’s time to exhale, refocus and realize that the next group of games offer.
If the last five games were about survival, the next four are about exploiting a grand opportunity
Now is the time for the Mavericks to wave goodbye – really say sayonara – to the shadow of .500.
Starting Wednesday at Minnesota to wrap up a three-game trip after splitting games in Portland, and then with meetings against Indiana at American Airlines Center and New Orleans and Oklahoma City on the road, the Mavericks have a chance to make headway.
Extending the schedule out further, their next seven opponents all are .500 or below, as of Monday.
Again, it’s a chance to pad their record, which has never been more than three games above .500 this season, which is where the Mavericks sit now at 22-19.
Trade deadline looming: The NBA’s trade deadline is Thursday at 2 p.m. and the rumor mill is buzzing with conjecture about the Mavericks.
While fans all like juicy trade speculation, the reality is that the Mavericks probably don’t have the assets – mostly, future available first-round draft picks – to get in the conversation for any of the big fish in the trade pool.
Smaller deals are possible. And the buyout season, something that has been utilized by the Mavericks in the past, will commence shortly after the trade deadline.
The fact that so many teams are in the hunt for the playoffs, or at least the play-in games, could make trading a bit tricky. Those teams might be reluctant to be sellers if they feel they have a legitimate shot at playing beyond the 72-game regular season.
Another factor to consider: the Mavericks have gone 14-6 since Feb. 3, a pace that has slowly improved their standing in the West. Bringing in new players often requires an adjustment period that could temporarily stall the Mavericks’ forward momentum.
Plus, there is the locker room to consider. This group appears to have a good rapport from the starters to the deep reserves. The Mavericks value that sort of chemistry.
In the zone: The Mavericks had a good time watching Luka Dončić drill eight consecutive 3-pointers to start Sunday’s game before missing his ninth and final attempt.
Josh Richardson said it got to the point that rebounding became a secondary thought.
“I don’t really have anything to say about that,” Richardson said of Luka’s 37-point night. “It’s like, I wasn’t even crashing (the boards) anymore.
“When he shot it, I was just running back on defense. He’s special. There’s not a lot of guys that can find that groove that he did. He was in the zone.”