The last time the Mavericks went on an extended winning streak, they immediately coughed up half of it in the losing streak that followed. They’ve now done the exact same thing here in falling to the New Orleans Water Birds on Saturday night. Back-to-back losses put a little bit of a damper on that four-game winning streak, but the Mavericks are still holding on stubbornly to the fifth seed in the West with a 19-15 record and the halfway mark fast approaching.
It’s hard to believe my first season as a Mavericks fan is almost halfway over. I’ve watched literally every second of every game thus far, even the games that were never particularly close, but it still feels like this fan experiment just began yesterday. It didn’t, of course. It’s entering its 10th week, and I’ve long stopped looking at it as an experiment at all. My hope was that I could pick up a new favorite sports team at random out of nowhere, but I had no idea how much I’d actually buy into it. It turns out it isn’t hard to fall in love with a new team in a new sport, and I think more people should try it. Too often we pick one or two sports and shut our minds to the others, and that’s dumb. Watch them all, idiots — just not football.
With the Mavericks yet to win a game in 2016, the highlights have been few. In fact, the best thing that took place in Saturday’s game happened before tip-off even took place. Mark Followill and Derek Harper opened the broadcast standing on the court and discussing the woeful New Year’s Day performance against the Heat, and perhaps Charlie Villanueva didn’t approve of the criticism. Watch him here as he briefly considers doing something awful to the Mavericks announcing tandem.
Although I find the term a little generous, sometimes Charlie is referred to as a flamethrower. It appears in this scene he’s thinking about using an actual flamethrower to torch Followill and Harper. Considering he’s hitting threes at a 26.7 percent clip this year, the only thing he’s setting fire to is the hopes and dreams of MFFLs. I expect this video to be the most enjoyable on-court moment involving Villaneuva all season.
The game itself wasn’t anywhere nearly as funny. Although Dallas hung in there nicely in the first half, things got less pleasant in the third quarter, and they could never claw their way back in it despite putting together a good run at the end. Dallas was slaughtered on the boards, getting out-rebounded 53-33, and although they protected the ball better than the Pelicans did, they did everything else worse. Fast break points? The Pelicans had the advantage. Second chance points? Pelicans. Points in the paint? Yep.
Dallas fields a roster of players who have to shoot the ball well to score, because nobody is particularly adept at getting to the rim or scoring at the basket, and they have no answer for a freak of nature like Anthony Davis — not that many teams do. Davis put up a memorable performance, scoring 31 points to go along with 14 rebounds. While it’s fun watching him play, it’s a little cruel when he’s facing your favorite team. Norris Cole was devastating as well, finishing with 16 points and an uncharacteristic 12 rebounds.
On the Mavericks side, Dirk Nowitzki put up reasonable numbers on the surface with 24 points and 4 rebounds, but it took him 21 shots and eight free throw attempts to get there. His shooting woes have continued for several games now, and his overall season field goal percentage is all the way down to 45.9 percent. Wes Matthews chipped in with 18 points and knocked down four three-pointers in 10 attempts, and his shooting is actually trending the opposite direction of Dirk’s. Wes’s 39.2 percent shooting from the field is still well below his career average, but he’s really starting to come around from three-point range. Considering he shoots by far the most threes of anyone on the team, that’s huge.
As disappointing as it is to fall into a losing streak after winning four straight, the situation is far from dire. The team is now entering a stretch where they will be playing four games in six days, and they cannot afford to lose more than two of them. After that four-game stretch against largely beatable teams, they then have to survive a series of consecutive games against the Cavs, Thunder, Bulls, Spurs, and Celtics. If they can win even two of those five, it would be a miracle. The team’s performance over these next few weeks is going to tell us a lot about where they’ll be when the season comes to a close.