The Mavericks are already in the playoffs. It was almost done, but the last step had to be taken. And they gave it, against the Raptors (114-110). With (unnecessary) final suffering and in a rather ugly match, but they gave it. Against some Raptors without Siakam, VanVleet, Lowry, Anunoby and company, with seven players on the court, and led by Malachi Flynn (26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), number 29 of the last draft, and Jalen Harris (31 points, 4 assists), number 59. A team that (27-44 in the absence of a last game) He already sealed his first playoff absence since 2013. and that he is definitely facing the transition from the team that reached glory in 2019. Time flies in the NBA.
But the Mavs, to their thing, they added the victory they needed and secured the playoffs. They had it downhill, but the road has not been easy. COVID crunched them at the start of the season and they reached a terrible 9-14, they were not positive until March 2 (17-16) and for weeks it seemed that the play in would be inevitable. They have avoided it thanks to the Lakers’ plague of woes and their fantastic 12-3 in the last 15 games. They are 42-29 now, after a game that complicated at the end and in which Luka Doncic added his eleventh triple-double of the season and number 36 of his career: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists with a 1/8 in 3-pointers identical to that of an icy Tim Hardaway Jr this time (7 points, 1/11 total shots). Better were Porzingis (21 + 10), Finney-Smith (17 points, 4 triples) and a Jalen Brunson (19 + 5 + 4) who seemed unable to fail first but ended with a knee scare that could spoil a quiet night to those of Rick Carlisle.
And now that? The Mavs are left to play the Timberwolves on Sunday. It may be better for them, practically, a defeat, but there are too many accounts in the air. This is safe: They will be fifth or sixth in their second straight playoffs after a three-year absence, the second in three years for Luka Doncic. His rival is already reduced to two only options: Denver Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers, that the third and fourth positions will be distributed. There is the dance of chairs between all, with an eye on the first-round rival … and in the broadest panorama, a complete route through the West in which everyone looks askance at some Lakers who have turned everything upside down at the come from so far behind.
Doncic and his Mavs, if anything, will have a big first round. If it’s the Nuggets, it will be a duel against Nikola Jokic… and a Doncic-Campazzo, face to face in the direction. If they are the Clippers, it will be the rematch of last season, when the Californians beat the Mavs (4-2) in the first round, weighed down by the physical problems of Porzingis and a Doncic who, with a badly injured ankle, played an epic series : 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists. Now he’s going back to the big stage. He will not be a favorite in any case, but he will have options to step into the second round for the first time. It is your next challenge, the new horizon. As minimum…