It’s officially make or break time for the Dallas Mavericks.
Vince Carter knows it and Dirk Nowitzki knows it. The two veterans are playing like it of late, with Vinsanity averaging around 14 points per game off the bench and providing 2.5 three pointers per game over the last month and Dirk living up to expectations. Since beginning to play more than 30 minutes per night in early January, Nowitzki is having the impact on the Mavs they desperately hoped he would, averaging 18.3 points and 8.25 rebounds per game since Feb. 6.
But don’t the rest of the Mavs have to know it night in and night out too? Shawn Marion stepped up on Wednesday night as the team topped the Rockets 112-108 with a 22 point performance that proved crucial in cancelling out James Harden’s 28. That said, Marion is incredibly inconsistent with scoring numbers that yo-yo from night to night. It averages out to around 13 points per over the last month, but can the Mavs seriously make a playoff push with Nowitzki and a second scorer by committee every night?
Certain players need to consistently step up for Dallas if they’re going to make it. Last night’s victory pulls them to within 4.5 games of Utah in the standings with just 22 games remaining in the season and if they’re going to conquer that gap, here are three guys that could prove the difference if they can show up every night.
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Early in the season, Mayo was setting the basket on fire from wherever he shot the ball, but since dropping 28 on Portland a month ago, he has failed to break 20 points in any game and seems hesitant to take on the roll of a primary scorer now.
Dallas needs solid production from one of their guards and with Rick Carlisle having gone to Mike James starting at point guard, who recently crawled out of the D-League to steal Darren Collison’s job, it seems Mayo has to be that guy. While James is a very respectable player and a guy who can distribute the ball well, Mayo is the one who can create his own shot from the perimeter and rise up at a clutch moment to provide a key basket.
With Nowitzki on form and Carter providing a sixth man type presence off the bench, all the Mavs need is Mayo firing on all cylinders to get to the postseason for the thirteenth consecutive year.
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With Chris Kaman out of the lineup right now, Rick Carlisle has turned to Brandon Wright to take on the starting center role. Wright’s stints at regular playing time have yielded inconsistent results over the past few years and as a rebounder and rim defender, he is weak. Down the stretch, Brand will play a key role in filling minutes at both center and power forward as Nowitzki’s backup.
In the last two weeks, Brand has averaged 10.6 points and 6 rebounds while playing just 23.5 minutes per game. Those numbers are a good return on the minutes he’s given, but the Mavs could use his savvy veteran play even more heavily as their rank of 20th in the NBA in total rebounds continues to plague them. Brand can get second chance points and provides them the size to keep from having to use Marion at power forward in place of Nowitzki.
If the Mavericks are going to use Marion thirty plus minutes per game, then his production needs to increase and become more inconsistent. He stepped up last night with a good performance, but the Mavs need that every night from the 34-year old and if he’s going to play power forward at times as part of a small lineup, he has to live up to his 8 rebound per night average.
His biggest role isn’t as a shooter, it’s as a defender against the league’s best small forwards and a player capable of running the floor. At this point in the season, it’s a big ask to demand that a player of his age get down the hardwood at speed, but the Mavs do better when they get out on the break. They are currently fourth in the league in fast break points, something they’ll need to continue to flex their muscle at over the next six weeks. Marion is a key player in making that a reality and he needs to step up and help push the Mavs up the court and into the postseason.