With just five games left on their schedule, the Dallas Mavericks' season is finally coming to a close.
In all likelihood, the game on Wednesday, April 17 against the New Orleans Hornets will be the final game of the season for the 2012-13 Mavericks.
They currently trail the Los Angeles Lakers by two-and-a-half games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and although they have fought valiantly and are still mathematically alive, their franchise run of 12 consecutive playoff appearances is more than likely going to end this season.
It has not been a season to remember for the Mavericks organization, but despite the struggles and relative mediocrity, this team has certainly had its share of memorable moments that have greatly affected it one way or the other.
Many of these Mavericks may be going elsewhere in 2013-14, so it's time to reflect on the biggest moments of the Dallas season that has brought us to where we are today.
October 20: Dirk Goes Under the Knife
Before the regular season could even get started in Dallas, the Mavericks already had obstacles in front of them. Dallas was expected to be a top-six team out West with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki coming back to aid the new additions such as O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman.
However, the dynamic of the whole season changed on October 20 when the Mavericks superstar had arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him for over two months.
Losing him before the season even started put the team's back up against the wall before it had even tipped off in the regular season. Although the team held its own without Nowitzki in the lineup, it's clear that he makes all the difference on this Mavs team, and not having him healthy for the whole season hurt them in a major way.
October 30: Wild Wild West
Another challenge the Mavericks had to face before the start of the season was the suspension and loss of reserve guard Delonte West.
West was a key contributor to the Mavericks' 2011-12 campaign, and losing him before the season left a huge gap in the Mavericks backcourt that they have been unable to fulfill to this day.
Darren Collison has been inconsistent in a starting role and has gone back and forth between being a starter and a bench player. Dallas has tried to insert several players into the roster's second point guard spot, including Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Derek Fisher before settling on 38-year-old Mike James.
Having West on the roster certainly could have helped the Mavs in a huge way, particularly when Collison struggled. However, after his second suspension there was simply no way he could return to the team, and the Mavericks were forced to release him.
November 7: Hot Start
Despite the losses of Nowitzki and West, the Mavericks came out of the gates red hot to start the season, winning four of their first five games.
After starting out hot, the Mavs trailed off over the next month. They balanced winning streaks with losing streaks and looked like they were just treading water waiting for Nowitzki to return.
On December 12, the Mavericks lost a hard-fought game in overtime at Boston against the Celtics. The reason this date is significant in the Mavericks season? It was the last time the Mavericks would be at .500 to this day.
December 23: The Return of Dirk
On December 23, Nowitzki made his 2012-13 season debut, scoring eight points in a 129-91 blowout loss at the San Antonio Spurs.
Despite having their superstar finally back in the lineup, his return didn't seem to help the Mavericks season at all at that time. In fact, it had the opposite effect.
After losing to San Antonio to drop the team to 12-16, Dallas would go on to lose seven of its next eight games after that to fall to a season-worst 13-23, a hole it has been trying to dig itself out of ever since.
January 18: Thunderstruck
Going into their January 18 meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks were showing some much-needed fight having won four games in a row to push them back up to 17-23.
If the Mavs could have pulled off an upset in that game, they could have potentially carried that momentum into an even longer winning streak that maybe would get them back in the playoff hunt.
Instead, despite giving Oklahoma City everything it could handle, Kevin Durant was just too much as his 52 points propelled the Thunder to a 117-114 overtime victory. The loss put Dallas at a miserable 1-8 in overtime games up to that point and killed whatever momentum it built up from the previous win streak.
February 8: Fear the Beard
In an attempt to right the ship on what was a lost season, Nowitzki and several other Mavericks vowed on February 8 that they would not shave their beards until the Mavericks reached .500 on the season.
At the time, Dallas was 21-28, a full seven games under the .500 mark, and many believed the team would be sporting those beards all season long.
As of April 10, Nowitzki and his teammates still haven't gotten out the razor. Dallas has come oh so close, being just one game under the .500 mark, but twice it has lost games that could have put it over the hump.
Wednesday night it will have a third chance, and probably its best yet. At 38-39, Dallas will host the woeful Phoenix Suns at home. A win in that one, and finally those atrocious beards can go literally down the drain.
March 12: Signs of Life
After a mediocre February in which it went 6-5, Dallas really started to play its best basketball of the season in mid-March.
Dallas capped off a four-game winning streak on March 12 with a victory over Milwaukee, and that brought the team back to 30-33, the closest it had been to .500 since December 21.
March 30: Alive and Well
Dallas finally began to really hit its stride in late March as it made a surge toward the playoffs.
The Mavericks had a make-or-break six-game homestand capped off by a March 30 game over Chicago. Already 3-2 on that homestand with wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks still needed to beat Chicago to feel good about their chances in the playoff race going into April.
Down 12 in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks stormed all the way back to beat Chicago after a Nowitzki three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left put them on top for good. He scored a season-high 35 points and looked once again like the All-Star Dallas fans were accustomed to seeing.
In addition, the Mavericks were once again just one game under the .500 mark and were within striking distance of the Jazz and Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
April 2: Dagger
Going into the Mavericks' matchup with the Lakers on April 2, the team was soaring with confidence and full of hope at the possibility that it could somehow, someway scratch and claw its way into the playoffs after being practically out of it as late as early March.
All Dallas had to do was beat the inconsistent Lakers at the Staples Center and it would be a mere game back of that final playoff spot. Instead, the team laid an egg and for all intents and purposes it was the end of the Mavs' playoff dream.
The Lakers dominated Dallas in a 101-81 victory and put some serious distance between themselves and Dallas in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Mavericks then followed up the lost with an absolutely heartbreaking defeat at Denver to seal their fate.
The Mavericks are still fighting, and to their credit have won two straight after falling to the Lakers and Nuggets, but the effort feels like just too little too late.
The Mavericks' season has been filled with its ups and downs, but barring a miracle, it will end with Dallas on the outside looking in to the playoffs for the first time since the year 2000.