Lance Murphey/Associated Press
The Dallas Mavericks don't get enough credit. They entered the 2013-14 campaign with yet another new-look rotation, and while their defense has been atrocious most of the year, their offense has helped them exceed leaguewide expectations.
When it comes to making the playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki knows nothing will be easy. "It's going to be a beast to get in," the forward said, per ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon. "But we've got to take care of what we can control, which is to play hard and win as many games as we can."
So far, the Mavs have done just that. In early March, the team took down the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers in back-to-back contests. Then, following a loss to the Golden State Warriors, it bounced back with wins against the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.
B/R's Joe Flynn is right when he says, "The schizophrenic nature of this team is why they only appear to be just good enough to sneak into the playoffs." The good news is that sneaking in still counts, which is what matters once the regular season comes to an end.
If the Memphis Grizzlies had been healthy all season, we likely wouldn't be having this discussion. They're 39-27 on the year (.591), but they're 29-14 with Marc Gasol in the lineup (.674).
With the postseason nearing, the Grizzlies are surrendering the third-fewest points per game in the entire Association. Their offense has only been good enough to post the 25th-best points-per-game average, but as the cliche goes: Defense wins championships.
No disrespect to the Phoenix Suns and what they've done this season, but they haven't sustained success the way they wanted to in a fantastically tough Western Conference. They failed to trade draft picks and Emeka Okafor's expiring contract at the deadline, and that should prove to be their demise when it comes to a run at the 2014 playoffs.
Regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves, the group led by Kevin Love has yet to meet its own expectations, leaving it on the outside looking in once again.
The Grizzlies should be a top-eight team out West when it's all said and done, and simply put: Nobody wants to play them in the first round of the postseason.