1. What should be a successful season for these Mavs?
Gutierrez: If we’re still buying in on Mark Cuban’s two-year plan, I would say a successful season in terms of tangible win-loss results would be getting into the playoffs and, depending on the seeding, winning a game or two. I think the probability of extending a series greatly improves if they can somehow manage to wind up as the sixth seed. I think this season has already been a success because they’ve found a true running mate for Dirk Nowitzki in Monta Ellis. They were expecting a nice player, but I think they’ve gotten more than they expected in Ellis. His aggression on offense and commendable all-around play have made him a great piece for the new core. With a new core and cap space, they can continue to propel themselves back to contention near the top of the West. That’s a success in my book.
Taylor: Given the makeup of this roster and where they will likely finish in the Western Conference, I'd say getting to the second round would be a sensational season. A good season, as strange as it sounds, would be pushing their first-round opponent 6 or 7 games, especially if it's San Antonio or Oklahoma City. I don't expect them to get to the second round and for a franchise with their history, it seems bad to say just getting to playoffs is a successful season.
MacMahon: The Mavs have to at least put up a fight in the first round to feel good about this season. No matter how tough the West might be, the Mavs are too proud of a franchise to consider just getting into the playoffs to be an accomplishment worth celebrating. Last season was viewed as an epic failure because the Mavs’ 12-year playoff streak was snapped, and that was with Dirk missing the first two months and dragging his leg around for several more weeks. Cuban will say he’s never satisfied with anything short of a title, but we all know the standards have been lowered over the last few years. Go six games in the first round, and that can be considered significant progress.
2. What should be considered a success for this eight-game homestand?
Gutierrez: A 5-3 record is somewhat safe to suggest for a record, but I think we’re talking success if the Mavericks can secure a 6-2 record during the eight-game homestand. The advantage of being at home should help them when it comes to battling the likes of the Thunder, Clippers and Warriors during the tail end of the homestand. They might catch another break in Russell Westbrook missing that game if Oklahoma City plans on continuing to implement their rule of not allowing Westbrook to play both games of a back-to-back. The Thunder squares off against the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back as they play the Nuggets the night before. Anything below 6-2 or 5-3 and this homestand will be considered a disaster.
Taylor: This would be a good homestand if the Mavs go 5-3. Anything else would be outstanding. The good thing is they're playing well right now and you hope they can sustain it. Oklahoma City is the only team on this homestand where you expect the Mavs to lose. But games against Clippers and Warriors will be tough tests.
MacMahon: A 5-3 run would lower the Mavs’ home winning percentage for the season, so that isn’t good enough. I’d say 6-2 would do, and that would mean that the Mavs got at least one win over a team that’s above them in the West standings. But it’d be hard to be happy with the homestand if the Mavs don’t wrap it up by beating the Warriors, especially if the sixth seed is within realistic reach at that point.
3. Does Sunday's result give you any confidence that the Mavs could challenge the Thunder in a playoff series?
Gutierrez: Will Oklahoma City be without three starters like they were Sunday in this series? If so, count me in. Realistically, I think Sunday’s game was a perfect storm for Dallas. I mentioned last week that I think Oklahoma City is the better matchup for Dallas. One thing I didn’t mention as an explanation is coaching. I believe the advantage arrow tilts towards Rick Carlisle over Scott Brooks. Sunday’s win might have conquered some demons for Dallas, but they still have a ways to go before they can be on Oklahoma City’s level.
Taylor: The Mavs would be fortunate to take one game from OKC in a playoff series. The Thunder is too good offensively for a bad defensive team like the Mavs to slow down. Westbrook would run wild against Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis or Devin Harris. It's just a poor matchup.
MacMahon: Yeah, the Thunder probably aren’t sweating a playoff matchup against a team they’ve beaten 11 of the last 12 meetings, especially since OKC was missing three starters in the lone loss during that span. Maybe we can revisit this if the Mavs beat the Thunder next week, but at this point, I’d pick OKC in five if the Red River neighbors match up in the first round.