Mavericks 2021 Schedule: Top Games, Updated Championship Odds and Predictions

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2021

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with teammate James Johnson (16) after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
Sam Hodde/Associated Press

Coming into the 2020-21 season, the Dallas Mavericks were considered a rising franchise behind MVP candidate Luka Doncic.

However, the Mavs have been one of the league's most disappointing teams through the first half of the season, posting a 15-15 record while trying to keep their head above water in the playoff chase. Doncic has remained an All-Star caliber player but not quite the world-beater some expected him to become. He's gone through prolonged slumps as a shooter, and the Mavs can ill-afford to not be among the NBA's best offenses given their defensive deficiencies. 

Dallas is 10th in offensive efficiency this season after being statistically the best offense in NBA history in 2019-20. 

With the schedule being released Wednesday, let's check in on whether the Mavs can turn things around in the second half.


Mavericks Second-Half Schedule Details

Second-Half Opener: vs. San Antonio Spurs, March 10, 8:30 p.m. ET

Championship Odds: +4200 (bet $100 to win $4,200), via FanDuel

Second-Half Schedule: NBA.com


Key Matchups 

Los Angeles Lakers (April 22, April 24)

LeBron James' affinity for Luka is well-trodden territory at this point. The pair have traded off glowing comments about each other's games in recent years, including LeBron's "bad motherf--ker" comment last season.

The lone Lakers-Mavericks matchup of the season's first half was an unfortunate blowout. The Lakers dominated throughout on their way to a 138-115 victory, while James and Doncic both had average (for them) performances. 

We can only hope Luka and LeBron manage to put on a more captivating performance in at least one of their remaining games. The Lakers should be heavy favorites in both matchups, but anytime Luka and LeBron go head-to-head it's worth tuning in.


The Race for Play-In Advantage

The Mavs' first half has essentially consigned them to being part of the NBA's play-in event for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds. While the Mavs have to play well enough to even make the tournament, getting home-court advantage for those matchups will be critical if they settle in.

The higher seed comes with two massive advantages: home court and the ability to lose one game and still have a chance. If the lower seed loses the opening game, their season is done. Seeds Nos. 7 and 8 have both the built-in fan advantage along with some wiggle room in case they throw up a dud in the opener.

Dallas has several games remaining this season against San Antonio, Denver, Golden State, Memphis and New Orleans, all of whom are firmly in the 7-10 race.

Picking out the importance of one over another is impossible given the closeness of the standings at this point, but it should be a fun race in the NBA's newest schedule wrinkle. 


Second-Half Forecast

The Mavs are a better team than they've shown this season; it's just not clear how much better.

There's some form of mean regression coming with their shooting, particularly for Doncic and Porzingis. Both players saw some improvement as the first half of the season came to a close, and Doncic is essentially back to putting up numbers right in line with his 2019-20 marks.

Porzingis will be the biggest factor in determining whether the Mavs head back to the playoffs. While he's been fine on the offensive end, Porzingis has been a glaring minus in every aspect defensively—something that could prove to be a long-term miscalculation. 

The Mavs are banking on Porzingis being able to play the 5 on both ends of the floor moving forward. He more than capably handled himself last season when healthy, and typically has the combination of height and lateral quickness to be an above-average defender—even if he'll never be a Gobert-esque stopper.

If Porzingis continues to be a sieve in the middle, the Mavs are headed toward the lottery. Don't be surprised if Dallas is among the most active teams ahead of the trade deadline, especially with its first-round pick headed to the New York Knicks.

Record Projection: 37-35 (play-in participant)


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