J.J. Barea will create a logjam at the guard position when he returns from injury. He has missed 13 games LM Otero AP
J.J. Barea will create a logjam at the guard position when he returns from injury. He has missed 13 games LM Otero AP

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks start the post-All-Star break with big obstacles

February 22, 2017 3:35 PM

DALLAS

The Dallas Mavericks are set to start their post-All-Star schedule Friday night in Minnesota, and they’re also hoping to become the eventual winner of a heated race for a playoff invitation.

The Mavericks (22-34) are 12th in the Western Conference, but only three games behind the Denver Nuggets (25-31) for the conference’s eighth and final postseason spot. The Sacramento Kings (24-33), Portland Trail Blazers (23-33) and New Orleans Pelicans (23-34) are also ahead of the Mavericks in the standings, while the Minnesota Timberwolves (22-35) are just a half game behind Dallas.

The Kings trading DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans earlier this week could alter things somewhat. Especially since the Mavericks have two games remaining against New Orleans and only one left against Sacramento.

Of the Mavs’ 26 remaining games, 13 are against teams with a winning record. That includes three against Memphis, two each against Toronto, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers, and one each against Golden State, San Antonio, Washington and Atlanta.

If the Mavericks can hurdle all of those obstacles and advance to the playoffs for the 16th time in the past 17 years, they know they will have truly earned it.

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Here are five things to consider in the post-All-Star stretch for the Mavericks:

Can the current roster get the Mavericks to the playoffs?

Yes. They all just have to find a way to stay healthy so the rotation can become more solid. The Mavericks must do a better job of rebounding, play better defense and stop going long stretches without scoring.

In addition, the schedule maker gave the Mavericks only four sets of back-to-backs for the remainder of the season, which is a plus.

What does the schedule look like down the stretch?

Seven of the Mavericks’ final nine games will be on the road, which could be a problem. That includes games at New Orleans and at the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as a pair of contests at Memphis.

As a side note, the Mavericks’ two home games during that stretch are against San Antonio and Denver. The Mavericks are 8-20 on the road, which is the third-worst road record in the West.

How many games do the Mavericks need to win to make the playoffs?

A lot, of course, has to happen for the Mavericks to gain entry into the postseason. But since they have to make up three games on the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, more than likely the Mavericks must find a way to go at least 17-9 the rest of the way to qualify for the playoffs.

They must beat Denver at home on April 11 because the Nuggets own a 2-1 edge in the season series.

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Will trade talks (or an actual trade) change the Mavericks’ outlook this season?

It’s never a good thing for the players when they hear their name tossed about in trade rumors. Players want to be wanted by their organization. It helps them get to a good place mentally so they can be a more productive player.

Even if a rumored player isn’t traded, he has to regroup mentally because the franchise tried to get rid of him. If new players come via a trade, it will take time for them to fit in.

What happens with the guard rotation when J.J. Barea returns?

Barea has missed the past 13 games with a strained left calf but is expected back soon.

The Mavericks have since acquired D-League sensation Yogi Ferrell, who sparked the Mavericks to a 5-2 record in games he has started.

The Mavericks also have guards Deron Williams, Seth Curry, Devin Harris and Wesley Matthews who they depend heavily on. Somebody’s minutes are going to get squeezed.

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

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