The reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks are heading for a free fall, and this time, there’s nothing Dirk Nowitzki can do to prevent it.
With less than 14 seconds remaining in Monday night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks held possession trailing by one. Not only did they fail to get a good look at the basket, but Nowitzki did not touch the ball once, leaving Jason Terry to take the pressure shot.
At 33, Nowitzki remains one of the game’s most deadly shooters. He knocks down over 45 percent of his field-goal attempts, and nearly 33 percent of his three-point shots. He’s the Mavericks leading scorer, as well as their leading man, and the ball must be put in his hands with the game on the line.
That’s the problem Dallas is faced with though. Nowitzki is the team’s only consistent offensive weapon, and the opposition knows it.
Terry puts points on the board, but out of volume more than precision, evident in his less than impressive field goal percentage. Jason Kidd is strictly a facilitator at this stage in his career, and both Lamar Odom and Vince Carter have not done what they were brought in to do. The absence of Tyson Chandler in the low-post hasn’t helped either.
As it stands, the Mavericks are 22-17, clinging to the Western Conference’s sixth seed. They are losers of six out of their last 10, and have posted an 8-10 record on the road.
And things aren’t going to get any better.
The Mavericks are a team pieced together by underwhelming youth, declining veterans and Nowitzki. Amid a severely truncated schedule, their roster can only be classified as a house of cards.
Dallas has 27 games left to play this season, 18 of which come against postseason bound teams. Their schedule, except for a brief five game stint, is relentless the rest of the way.
The competition isn’t going to get any easier, and barring an unforeseen trade deadline coup, the Mavericks aren’t going to get any younger or more athletic. And given what he has to work with, Nowitzki is not going to be able to lead this franchise to another title, or perhaps even a playoff berth.
Many will scoff at the notion of Dallas not making the playoffs, but recent losses at the hands of the New Jersey Nets and New Orleans Hornets are not to be discounted. This team is run down, it’s spent and in need of relief, more than a tired Nowitzki can muster.
Dallas defied the odds last season, using depth to defeat the Miami Heat. This year, though, the Mavericks are just trying to defy Father Time, who appears to be rapidly catching up with them.
As the season enters the home stretch, the Mavericks’ ability to rebound will truly be tested; their ability to gather themselves, regain composure and make a legitimate postseason push will either present itself, or it won’t.
If the last 10 games or so are any indication though, the ladder is far more likely.
Dan Favale is an avid basketball analyst and firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His work can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.