The Dallas Mavericks have been staying in the playoff race despite atrocious injury luck. Tonight’s game against the Timberwolves features the worst injury report yet, with Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and Derek Lively all listed as out. The Mavericks are currently 7th in the western conference and only 2 games out of the 5 seed so every game matters. Being depleted against a Timberwolves team that has been dominant and at the top of the conference all season is quite unfortunate. The Mavericks need to stay healthy to compete in a loaded western conference.
Doncic and Irving are obviously paramount to this Mavericks team, but Lively has also been a massive contributor. His rim presence, rebounding, defense and pick and roll game with Doncic has added a much needed threat to this Mavericks team that has been missing a big man that can dominate the paint.
Prior to Lively it was Dwight Powell who was getting consistent center minutes and while he always hustled and played his heart out Lively’s raw physicality and athleticism is leagues above. His absence throughout the season has been detrimental to Dallas’ team success. In the 11 games he has missed prior to tonight the Mavericks are 4-7. In the games he has played in, they are 22-14. That is a significant difference in win percentage. Dallas also has a slightly better defensive rating with Lively on the court, although his presence is mostly felt as a physical rim runner and scorer in the paint.
For Kyrie Irving, injury has been a common issue all season. He has been out with a thumb injury for what will be six consecutive games. Irving has played only 27 games this season and his absence has lead to a lack of ball handling and shot creation outside of Doncic.
With Kyrie Irving on the floor the Mavericks are an entirely different team and a more dangerous one at that. Although the records with him on the court and off the court aren’t too dissimilar (11-9 with Irving out and 15-12 when he’s in), his ability to score at will on all three levels is necessary to the Mavericks if they want to compete in the playoffs. Irving has averaged 25.2 points, 5.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 47% from the field when he has played. The scoring and offensive creativity that Kyrie Irving brings to the table takes so much off of Doncic’s plate and that is going to be needed moving forward.
Luka Doncic has been relatively healthy this season, which is the only reason the Mavericks have stayed competitive. His scoring and playmaking output has been historic this season. Aside from his 73 point game, which was the most efficient 70 plus points ever scored in the NBA, he became the only player in NBA history to have at least two 45 point and 15 assist games. He also continues to add to the absurdly impressive amount of triple doubles in his career before he has even turned 25 years old.
When Doncic is on fire like he has been lately it often leads to wins, but there are also plenty of negatives that come with him having to play hero ball every night. Jason Kidd has Luka playing 41.5 minutes per night over the last 6 games he has played. That level of strain on the body is unsustainable, especially for someone like Doncic who has a history of missing time on the court. Having to play that many minutes every night during the regular season can lead to burnout or injury, and if either of those happen to Doncic the Mavericks are going to feel it.
Mavericks Playoff Push Reliant On Health
With all three of these key players out tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the odds of Dallas winning are slim. Right now the Mavericks are still in good shape only being 2 games out of the 5th seed. However, if these injuries keep piling up and Dallas continues to be without their best center in Lively, one of the best scorers in league history in Irving, and multiple other role players it will spell trouble. This will also make Luka Doncic’s workload that much more difficult and unmanageable. For Dallas, health is the key to success this season.