Opening Tip: Mavs feasting in February

The Mavericks’ success this month shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’re supposed to be one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

Just look at their February schedule.

Give the Mavs credit for going 8-2 so far this month, the NBA’s third-best February record behind the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, and recognize that they had quality road wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers. But the Heat, who beat Dallas by 11, are the only other team with a winning record the Mavs have faced during their hot streak.

Dating to a victory over the Sacramento Kings on the last day of January, seven of the Mavs’ last nine wins have come against teams that are at least 11 games below .500.

The Mavs have done a magnificent job of handling their business against bad teams, a trend they need to continue Wednesday night with the 23-33 New Orleans Pelicans in town. As tough as the West is, the Mavs need every win.

The Mavs have managed to move up a spot in the West standings by winning nine of the last 11 games. They’ve gone from two games back to one game up on the Phoenix Suns, who have had a .500 February. The Mavs have pulled within a game and a half of the Golden State Warriors and created a two-game cushion over the Memphis Grizzlies, a 1 ½-game difference in both instances since Jan. 31.

But the Mavs’ schedule is about to get much tougher. In fact, the Mavs have the most difficult schedule the rest of the season of the four teams fighting for the final three spots in the West playoff race.

A look at the remaining strengths of schedule for those teams, determined by opponents’ winning percentage:

Mavs: .542 (tied for third toughest in the NBA)

Grizzlies: .518 (seventh)

Suns: .510 (eighth)

Warriors: .500 (tied for 16th)

The Mavs have seized an opportunity presented by a soft stretch of schedule with their phenomenal February. To make the playoffs, they’ll need to keep the wins coming against much stronger competition in March and April.