If the Mavericks hope to move up in the Western Conference standings when the NBA restarts its 2019-20 season, they certainly should have the opportunity.
The league announced Friday evening that most teams, the Mavericks included, will pick up their schedule essentially where it left off on March 11 before the shutdown because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Mavericks, 40-27, seventh in the West and 2½ games out of the No. 4 seed, will play an eight-game schedule that includes games against Utah and Houston, two of the teams directly ahead of them in the West, and four games against teams who will start the eight “seeding” games on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
The eight teams that the Mavericks will play are: Suns twice, Clippers, Kings, Blazers, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks. These are exactly the eight teams they would have played next had their regular schedule continued after March 11.
The full eight-game schedule was announced on ESPN Friday. The playoffs will begin on Aug. 15 with potential play-in games for the eighth and ninth seeds.
The Mavericks won’t be a part of that. They go into the restart 7 ½ games ahead of No. 8 Memphis. One win (or Grizzlies loss) will mean the Mavericks can finish no lower than seventh in the West.
But they have hopes of much more.
Following is a rundown of their eight seeding games and challenges each opponent will face.
July 31 vs. Rockets: Backcourts don’t come any more explosive than Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But this team is the polar opposite of the Jazz. They are small, except when they go even smaller. P.J. Tucker is the de facto center in most setups and while the Rockets have good defenders (Tucker, Robert Covington) they have inherent challenges, particularly when it comes to rebounding.
Aug. 2 vs. Suns: Phoenix has the hardest road to get into the playoffs. They were the last team to make the cut in the West but only have to make up 2 ½ games to tie No. 9 Portland. But they would have to pass Sacramento, San Antonio and New Orleans, too. In the Suns’ favor is a stout backcourt with Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio, not to mention Deandre Ayton, who presumably will be healthy.
Aug. 4 vs. Kings: Going into this season, some people felt the Kings were ready to jump into the playoff chase. Harrison Barnes even grew a regrettable beard and vowed to keep it until the Kings got back over .500. We presume it’s still growing. But the Kings have talent and that’s always a threat when it comes to desperate teams hoping to gain a playoff appearance for the first time in years.
Aug. 6 vs. Clippers: LAC has no chance of catching the No. 1-seeded Lakers, but the Clippers do have to worry about Denver, which is hot on their heels for the No. 2 playoff slot. The Clippers have manhandled the Mavericks twice this season, winning both meetings in Dallas. On paper, at least, this is not a preferred matchup for the Mavericks.
Aug. 8 vs. Bucks: The Bucks essentially will be tuning up for the playoffs. They likely will have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up before the Mavericks see them, so they might be on cruise control. Will the Mavericks get a chance to play them with Giannis Antetokounmpo resting?
Aug. 10 vs. Jazz: Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were the poster kids for coronavirus and its impact in the NBA. Gobert was the first NBA player to contract it that we know of and he may have given it to his teammate. Now, the Jazz will try to see if they can win big in the playoffs the old-fashion way – with a non-shooting, defensive-minded big man in Gobert. The Mavericks always seem to play this version of the Jazz pretty well, although they are 0-2 this year.
Aug. 11 vs. Blazers: Damian Lillard was one of the most vocal players about not going to Orlando if the games weren’t meaningful. The league made sure that teams like the Blazers have a legit shot at the playoffs. They figure to be one of the hungriest and most dangerous teams in the bubble with Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and a healthy Zach Collins. But they will be without Trevor Ariza, who opted out of the Orlando bubble.
Aug. 13 vs. Suns: A second game against the team that comes in with the worst record in the West among the teams involved in Orlando. The Suns could be playing out the string by then, or perhaps playing for their playoff life.
MAVERICKS SEEDING GAMES SCHEDULE
July 31: Rockets, 8 p.m., Arena.
Aug. 2: Suns, 8 p.m., Visa.
Aug. 4: Kings, 1:30 p.m., HP
Aug. 6: Clippers, 5:30 p.m., HP
Aug. 8: Bucks, 7:30 p.m., Arena
Aug. 10: Jazz, 1:30 p.m., Arena
Aug. 11: Blazers, 4 p.m., Arena.
Aug. 13: Suns, TBD, TBD.