The vibes in Dallas aren’t great; the basketball is even worse. Not even a full year removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance, the Dallas Mavericks are in free fall, losing six of their last eight games. At 36-39, the Mavericks have slipped all the way to 11th in the Western Conference, putting them in danger of missing the play-in tournament. Their trade deadline blockbuster deal for Kyrie Irving was supposed to vault them towards legitimate championship contention; instead, they’ve sunk down the standings, most recently dropping back to back games to the lowly Charlotte Hornets.
“A lot of desperation basketball that needs to be played here down the stretch,” Kyrie Irving told Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News, “and I just would love to just be 100% healthy and be able to just play in the flow of the game. But I’m out there, so there’s no excuses.”
Curiously, Irving himself has actually played very well during Dallas’ nosedive, even as he’s been in and out of the lineup with an injured right foot. In his 14 games with the Mavericks, Irving is averaging 27.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while maintaining a scorching 63.3 percent True Shooting.
Since trading for Irving, though, the Mavericks’ defense has utterly imploded—their 119.6 defensive rating in their 20 games since the trade would rank second-to-last in the league over the course of the full season. While the Mavs were never a great defensive team, swapping Dorian Finney-Smith (their best defender) for a notably apathetic one like Irving has torpedoed them on that side of the ball. At this point, the Mavericks face a major uphill battle to even make the playoffs—FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 24 percent chance of sneaking in with just seven games remaining
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