As Mark Cuban analyzed the first half of the NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks’ outspoken owner noticed two items about his team that caught his attention.
“What I like is we play up to good teams,” Cuban said. “What I don’t like is we play down to bad teams.”
In the first half of the season the Mavericks’ motor ran extremely high when they hit the floor against the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors. However, when it came time to play the lesser team, someone needed to order the Mavericks a few cans of Red Bull.
“I’d say we were decent,” shooting guard Wesley Matthews said. “We dropped a lot of games in this first half of the season that we shouldn’t have dropped. We played some good basketball at the same time. That’s why I said it’s decent.”
We had some good games and we had some rough stretches. We were just a little up and down and inconsistent, but I like the makeup of the team.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki
The Mavericks finished the first half with a 23-18 record. That’s five games shy of the 28-13 record they posted at the midway point last season when they finished 50-32.
The Mavericks are fifth in the Western Conference standings. They also are in second place in the Southwest Division, but they are 12 games behind the first-place San Antonio Spurs.
The Mavericks open the second half of the season at 6 p.m. Sunday against the Spurs (35-6) at AT&T Center. And they’ll do it knowing this is one of the teams they’ll likely have to overcome if they have designs on traveling deep into the playoffs.
All I know is I’ve got a good group of guys. They want to win and we’re making strides every day.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
Meanwhile, like Matthews, forward Dirk Nowitzki sees room for improvement in the second half of the season.
“We had some good games and we had some rough stretches,” Nowitzki said. “We were just a little up and down and inconsistent, but I like the makeup of the team.”
The Mavericks’ biggest win of the first half was the 114-91 victory over the defending world champion Warriors. Dallas also beat the Los Angeles Clippers (118-108), Houston Rockets (110-98), and Memphis Grizzlies (97-88), in addition to sweeping its two-game season series against the Bulls.
“All I know is I’ve got a good group of guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They want to win and we’re making strides every day. It’s one day at a time, it’s one hour at a time, it’s one moment at a time. That’s how we’re going to take it. With this schedule and the magnitude of opponents, you’ve got to scratch and claw to get anything you can.”
The Mavericks spent portions of the first half of the season with small forward Chandler Parsons and Matthews on a minutes restriction due to off-season surgery. Center JaVale McGee and point guard Deron Williams also had their minutes monitored, and the Mavericks were not about to run up the minutes on Nowitzki, their 37-year-old, 18-year veteran.
Still, despite poor shooting and some gaps in the rebounding game, the Mavericks saw some promising signs.
“We’ve been a little bit inconsistent, but I feel like we’ve beaten the teams that we should have beaten,” Parsons said. “We just have to try and find a way to be more consistent, and continue to get better and better and play our best basketball and our healthiest basketball down the stretch.”
Mavericks at Spurs
6 p.m. Sunday, FSSW
Three biggest surprises
Zaza Pachulia: The Mavericks will say that they knew Pachulia would be the type of player who would compile 20 double-doubles while playing in 39 games during the first half of the season. Acquiring Pachulia from Milwaukee for only a second-round pick is one of the steals of the off-season.
Dirk Nowitzki: Who knew that Nowitzki would be drawing more double-teams this season than he did last year, and still averaging a team-high 17.8 points a game? At 37, Nowitzki is the oldest player in the NBA who is leading his team in scoring.
Wesley Matthews: Matthews has never made any NBA all-defensive teams, but he certainly has been a pit bull of a stopper since joining the Mavericks. And all this came while he was working his way back from off-season surgery on his torn left Achilles.
Three biggest disappointments
Justin Anderson: The rookie from Virginia hasn’t taken off and worked his way into the Mavericks’ rotation. Anderson was the 21st pick of last summer’s NBA Draft, but has spent nearly as much time playing for the Texas Legends in the D-League as he has for the Mavericks.
Jeremy Evans: Playing time has been limited for Evans as he tries to grasp coach Rick Carlisle’s system. Opportunities were so scarce for the high-flying Evans that the six-year veteran asked to be sent to the D-League — when the Mavericks weren’t playing — so he could work on portions of his game.
Mavs against winning teams: The Mavericks have only posted a 7-12 record against teams that currently have a winning record. That record is magnified even more considering the Mavericks dropped home games to the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets.