From a tank-tastic 14-29 record on January 20 – when the only target seemed to be maximising Draft lottery odds – to now, and a mere 1.5 games out of the eighth Western Conference playoff spot following a 13-7 streak – the Mavs have suddenly found their stride.
And for once, it hasn’t been the hand of Dirk Nowitzki pushing the charge. Although the German is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds in four games this month, he’s still a veteran savouring the arch towards retirement.
Instead, it’s been a collective effort, epitomised by undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell who has gone from ten-day contract pick-up to starter to spur a line-up in which only the 20 per night from Harrison Barnes is lending a semblance of offensive consistency.
Dallas remains dead last in scoring at 98.3 per game but it’s their defence which has stunned. Third in points allowed at 99.8 – all the more extraordinary when Nowitzki still averages 26 minutes per contest – they host the Brooklyn Nets on Friday looking to extend a three-game winning streak which has included defeats of Memphis, Oklahoma City and the Lakers.
Their final month of the regular season looks favourable too. Eight of their last 19 games are against opponents currently outside the playoff placings although six of those probable-wins come on the road.
In what seems set to be a mini-battle between Denver, Portland and the Mavericks for eighth seed, the Trailblazers arguably have the greatest momentum and by far the softest schedule.
But Dallas ain’t dead yet. Against the Nets – first to be mathematically eliminated from post-season contention – it’s worth a punt on a handicap of -12.5 at 2.00, especially off three days’ rest with a -7.5 on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.
And although the Mavericks still have a tough hill to climb, anything remains possible.
Best bet: Go over 217.5 points in Dallas-Brooklyn at 2.43
The Chicago Bulls are clinging onto eighth spot in the West and on Sunday they’ll travel to the in-form Boston Celtics with little hope of victory.
Three successive losses could be four if they falter against Houston on Friday and the Bulls have found themselves unable to score, going no higher than 95 in their last four.
Boston should profit at a handicap of -10 () and avenge their 104-103 loss to Chicago last month.