The second half of the NBA schedule has been released and if the Mavericks thought the first half of the season was busy, they haven’t seen anything yet.
Coach Rick Carlisle was expecting a compacted schedule. And that’s exactly what the Mavericks – and the rest of the league – is going to get. The Mavericks will play 38 games in 68 days, with loads of back-to-back situations, starting on March 10.
“We’re a long way from being out of the woods,” said Carlisle, whose team reached .500 at 15-15 with Tuesday’s last-gasp victory over Boston. “The schedule is difficult. It’s going to get very dense in the second half. But our plan for adversity is to focus on what we have and not what we don’t have.”
What they have now is a clear look at what’s ahead. The NBA will be off from March 4-10 for the All-Star break.
When they return, the Mavericks will do so with a March 10 game against the San Antonio Spurs, who also will return to Dallas on April 11. In March, the Mavericks will play eight of their 12 games after the break on the road and also eight of those 10 games are against teams that presently would qualify for the playoffs.
Among the highlights of the remaining schedule will be two games scheduled at American Airlines Center with both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams will play two games in a row at AAC.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will lead the Clippers into town on March 15 and 17.
LeBron James and the Lakers visit on April 22 and 24.
The Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz will make their only appearance of the season in Dallas on April 5.
Two Eastern Conference kingpins, Milwaukee and Brooklyn, will make trips to Dallas.
The Bucks, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be in Dallas on April 8.
The Nets, led by James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, will visit on May 6.
The Mavericks will play 38 games in the second half. That includes the 35 games they were slotted to play in the second half, plus the three postponements (New Orleans, Detroit and at Houston).
In the first half, they were scheduled for 37 games in 71 days, so the back half of their schedule will be even busier than the first two-plus months, which was plenty busy.
They will have 10 back-to-back sets of games. Only two teams have 11 back-to-back situations. Three other teams have 10 such sets.
Genesis of a revival: Carlisle was asked on Tuesday about how the Mavericks have been able to turn around their fortunes since they were 8-13 on Feb. 1.
“It started in Atlanta (on Feb. 3) when we were able to bust out of a pretty substantial slump,” he said of the six-game losing streak they ended against the Hawks. “It happened because we stuck together. We played our butts off that night. It was a tough game plan chasing Trae Young around. But it was much needed and then we were able to come home and we’ve been able to play better.”
Now, they hit the road again for a three-game trip starting Thursday at Philadelphia.
And, of course, there’s no doubt that a win like Tuesday’s against Boston, when Luka Dončić made the game-winning 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left doesn’t hurt a team’s mojo.
“It helps a lot, obviously,” said Jalen Brunson after Luka’s heroics. “We need to finish strong going into the break. We have a couple big tests coming up. We got to lock in. This was a great step for our team, But we can’t look past and look to the break. We got to lock in these last couple games.”
Said Josh Richardson: “It’s huge because I don’t even know how much playoff experience a lot of these guys have, but I’ve been in a few series a few different years and I know most of those games come down to shots like that. Every stop counts. So for us to go through something like we did, where we had a little lead in the fourth, they fought back and we just had to figure a way to grind out a win. It’s going to be good for us.”