The Dallas Mavericks now find themselves squarely in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race as the No.6 seed, with 21 games remaining.
While Dallas does have to play several of the teams competing against it for seeding, the Mavericks also play 11 games against teams under .500.
“I think looking at 22 games, it’s late in the schedule,” head coach Jason Kidd told reporters in a media session before Thursday’s win against the San Antonio Spurs.
“We’ve already played 60, but the big thing for us is we’ve got a nice six-game homestand, which is a little different, too. You don’t play just one at home and then go back out on the road.”
“So, for us, this is a time to get to know one another, and then get some of those guys back healthy into the rotation. And then we’ve got to build that rotation,” Kidd continued.
“Going into the last 15 games, those guys in the locker room want to know when they’re playing. And so, there’s going to be opportunities to play a nine-man rotation or a 10-man rotation, but the rest of those guys have to be ready — just due to foul trouble and injury.”
“And so, it’s about being unselfish right now but paying attention to detail, and that’s what we’ve talked about over the last couple of days,” he concluded.
The Mavericks started that homestand by scoring a season-high 142 points in Thursday’s win and will not play another road game until March 8.
The offense had a smooth flow and rhythm as eight of the 10 players who entered the game scored in double figures.
“I think after our practice yesterday, [there was] great carryover with the energy and the spirit,” Kidd said in his postgame press conference.
“Guys were connected. We talked about it before — being unselfish. There’s going to be some guys that their minutes are going to come down as we get healthy here, and so that’s what happens when you have a deep team. And I thought the guys did a great job tonight.”
“I thought the ball from yesterday was moving,” Kidd later added. “I thought guys [were] moving too … People have said Luka and Ky need the ball, but they also know how to find their teammates, and their teammates are delivering right now.”
Thursday’s win was the first for the team with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic in the lineup, and the team’s other players fed off the All-Stars’ energy.
One of those players was newly signed forward Justin Holiday, who debuted with the team on Thursday night and finished with 15 points.
“Those two generate a lot of open shots, and they’re willing passers,” Holiday told reporters after the game.
“So, if it’s myself or anyone else, there’s going to be open shots to be had, and the beautiful part about it is I’m okay with it not being me, and those guys are okay with it not being them.”
“That’s the way you play as a team to be good,” Holiday elaborated. “When you’re happy for the next guy to get a shot, it’s hard for teams to beat that when you have that kind of camaraderie or that kind of feel for each other.”
There has been some concern over the Mavericks’ lack of defense, but Holiday is confident they can figure it out before the playoffs.
“I felt like guys were there to help me,” he said when asked about it after the game. “Guys were rotating and doing things we got through in practice.”
“We know exactly what we’re supposed to do in certain situations, and that’s the first step to being a good defensive team. So I just think, with a little more time, I think we have a lot of potential to do well on the other end.”
That will be an area to watch for improvement as the team moves forward, knowing it cannot overlook anybody.
“We can’t play to record,” Kidd told reporters ahead of Thursday’s game. “We’ve said that all year. When we’ve seen teams with records that are below .500, we tend to ease in, or it becomes a battle where it shouldn’t be.”
“So, we’ve got to respect our opponent, and we’ve got to come out and play hard.”
The Mavericks (32-29) continue their homestand against the Los Angeles Lakers (28-32) at 2:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.