The Dallas Mavericks have found themselves in a position that few expected them to be in before the All-Star break. They are now in the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings and could be edging towards securing automatic qualification for the NBA Playoffs.
They still have a lot to figure out before the post-season begins but are on the right track. Performances in recent weeks have boosted the team's morale and they will now be looking to finish the season strong.
With ten games left until the conclusion of the regular season, the Dallas Mavericks are two games behind the LA Lakers and have a great opportunity to finish fifth if they continue to improve.
Analyzing why the Dallas Mavericks are likely to avoid the Play-In tournament
The Dallas Mavericks' offensive rating of 116.3 after the All-Star break is the sixth highest in the NBA, better than the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets. Their record in that period, meanwhile, was ninth-best at 16-11.
Luka Doncic has continued to perform at a high level, and Kristaps Porzingis' return to form has also come in handy for the team's remarkable turnaround. Along with these factors, we look at three other reasons the Dallas Mavericks could avoid sliding into a play-in tournament spot.
#1 Easy schedule
Based on Tankathon.com's remaining schedule strength, the Dallas Mavericks have the third-easiest schedule left in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers, who are the closest threat to the Mavericks' hopes of achieving a direct qualification for the playoffs, have the fifth most demanding schedule.
It will be a tremendous relief for the Dallas Mavericks, who can now rest a key player like Luka Doncic regularly, which will keep him fresh once the postseason starts. However, the Mavericks have stuttered against underperforming teams throughout the year, something they should be mindful of going forward.
The most recent example would be their two losses to the Sacramento Kings in eight days. The Kings were on a nine-game skid when the Mavericks lost to them for the first time. The Mavericks lost the second game despite beating the LA Lakers twice in their back-to-back contest prior to the Kings matchup.
But if the Dallas Mavericks' 133-103 blowout win over the Golden State Warriors in their last outing was anything to go by, the Mavericks could have just found the spark they were looking for in these relatively easy fixtures.
#2 Role players stepping up
The Dallas Mavericks' supporting cast has come alive at the business end of the season. The likes of Trey Burke, Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith, in particular, have done exceptionally well to take the pressure off Luka Doncic. The role players have delivered on both ends of the floor.
Burke started the game against the Golden State Warriors and did a terrific job of guarding an in-form Steph Curry. He bolstered the Mavericks' weak defense and made four steals on the night. He needs to work on his offensive game a bit more, though, which is likely to happen once he plays more from here on out.
Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith, meanwhile, have peaked at the right time. The Mavericks will play three sets of back-to-back games, which will probably see Porzingis rest often. If that happens, Powell and Finney-Smith will come in handy to ensure the team wins despite the Unicorn's absence.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers' dip in form
The Portland Trail Blazers' poor run since the start of April has also played a part in helping the Dallas Mavericks surpass them in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers have a 6-10 record during that stretch.
As mentioned earlier, they also have the fifth-hardest schedule, which could be an enormous problem for the team, considering they haven't fared well against the top sides this season.
To win the majority of their matches moving forward, the Blazers will have to play their key players for extended minutes, depriving them of much-needed rest. This could hamper their chances if they make the Play-In tournament and subsequently the NBA Playoffs.