5. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 20 - 12
Last Week's Rank: 9
Last Week's Results: W vs. LA Clippers 96-92, (Mon); W vs. Denver 102-84, (Wed); W @ Philadelphia 82-75, (Fri); L @ New York 97-104, (Sun)
This Week: vs. Boston, Monday (2/20); vs. LA Lakers, Wednesday (2/22)
The most encouraging thing for Dallas fans has to be the resuscitation of the Mavs best player. Dirk Nowitzki's awkward fadeaway was starting to look less like a charming trademark of his game, and more like the desperate shot of a 33-year-old who'd lost a step. But during the Mavs recent 6-game winning streak, Nowitzki looked strong and poised, averaging over 23 points per game and scoring 24 in the second half of a road win against Philly.
All season long Dallas has been erratic, interrupting Championship-level play with spontaneous losing streaks. So, we'll see if a heartbreaking loss to the Knicks on Sunday leads to a curious string of L's. If the veteran-saturated Mavs can stay fresh and play consistently in this condensed season, then they'll be going deep into the postseason. —Sean Evans