After winning one of two games in week 14, the Mavericks enter week 15 with a record of 27-21. The Mavericks were just 9-8 in the month of January and it finally caught up with them. Dallas lost their grip on the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference to the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Feb. 1 dropped Dallas to the No. 9 spot and put Memphis percentage points ahead of the Mavericks.
On paper, the Mavericks have a favorable schedule in front of them. Dallas faces two teams that are rebuilding, and another team that is struggling to win. Dallas has spoken about playing with increased urgency and they will have to hold off their toughest opponent of the week, the Memphis Grizzlies.
Monday, Feb. 3 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Mavericks open the week by welcoming the Cleveland Cavaliers to the American Airlines Center. Dallas defeated Cleveland 102-97 when the two teams met on Jan. 20 at Quicken Loans Arena. After a slow start, the Cavaliers pulled the trigger on the biggest trade of the 2013-14 season. The Cavaliers traded for Luol Deng on Jan. 6, with hopes that it would be enough to propel them into the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
The Cavaliers won four of their first six games after adding Deng to their lineup, but they failed to maintain that momentum. Cleveland comes into the American Airlines Center with a record of 16-31 and they have lost six of their last seven games.
Guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are the Cavaliers most dynamic scoring threats, but this is a team Dallas should take care of. Cleveland is 5-18 on the road and they are coming into Dallas in a tailspin.
Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas hits the road for their toughest and most important matchup of the week. The Grizzlies are on fire as a team, having won 11 of their last 12 games.
The Grizzlies hot streak includes wins at Portland, Minnesota and Houston, and home wins against Oklahoma City and Phoenix. The Grizzlies have benefited from the return of center Marc Gasol, who missed almost eight weeks with a left knee injury.
The Grizzlies are huge up front and athletic in the backcourt. This is a big midseason game for the Mavericks as they look to retake the final playoff spot away from the Grizzlies.
Friday, Feb. 7 vs. Utah Jazz
The Mavericks catch a break in their schedule as face two teams in rebuilding mode to end the week. The first of these two teams are the 16-31 Utah Jazz. The Jazz have improved their play since the season began but they still lack a great deal of firepower.
While the Jazz are not a team to be feared, they do have a few weapons to watch. Small forward Gordon Hayward is averaging 17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, and rookie point guard Trey Burke and 2011 first-round draft pick Alec Burks have proven themselves to be capable scorers.
Since Dallas has struggled to contain opposing centers, it is worth nothing Jazz center Enes Kanter is averaging 19.5 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last four games. Kanter was No. 3 overall draft pick in 2011 and has seen his playing time increase with forward/center Derrick Favors nursing a hip injury. The Mavericks defeated the Jazz in their only previous matchup by a score of 103-93 on Nov. 22 at the American Airlines Center.
Sunday, Feb. 9 at Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are looking to the future and they are taking it on the chin this year. They may not be a formidable team now, but they have done a superb job in clearing up salary cap room and acquiring draft picks. It will not take long for the Mavericks to see that this Celtics team is far different than the 2012-13 version. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are now in Brooklyn and point guard Rajon Rondo finds himself adjusting to a new coach and a bevy of new teammates.
Forward Jeff Green is now the Celtics most consistent scoring option. Green averages 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Center Jared Sullinger enters the week coming off the best two games of his career, the second-year center has scored 45 points in his last two games. Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green may still have it, but the Celtics lack the depth to contend with the Mavericks at home.