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Scott Howard-Cooper

The Mavs, involved in a tight Western Conference playoff race, are confident about their chances.
Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Mavs continue to grind in late stages of title defense

Posted Apr 13 2012 9:45AM

OAKLAND -- Jason Terry strapped an ice bag to each knee and tucked another package of frozen remedy into the towel wrapped at the waistline, hitting the lower right side of his stomach. He then tossed another towel on the carpet of the visitor's locker room and eased on to his back. He put both feet up on the chair in front of his stall and placed part of a towel over his eyes.

There were no specific injuries, just the 34 years and nearly 13 seasons. Terry de-iced after seven minutes. Bag from the lower stomach, bag from the right knee, bag from the left knee. He sat in the chair, facing his locker. It was Thursday night at 10:29.

This was the Mavericks late in the regular season of their title defense.

Creaky at times but still very able, in the way Jet just had 16 points, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes of the 112-103 victory over the Warriors, and as he surely will be back for more Friday night at Portland.

On their backs at times but strong of mind.

Coming back for more.

Missing the playoffs is a factual possibility -- they are in sixth place in the Western Conference, 1 games behind No. 5 Memphis, a half-game ahead of Houston and Denver tied for No. 7, two games ahead of No. 9 Utah at the cutline for the lottery, with one more meeting each against the Rockets and Jazz to come. The Mavericks have both feet on the ledge, but it's not hard to see over the side.

Missing the playoffs is not, however, a consideration.

"No worry at all," Terry said. "We're a team that's full of veteran guys that knows what needs to be done. We look forward to the challenge. Hopefully when that time comes in another six or seven games, we'll be in the playoffs."

"Never in our mind that we weren't going to be in the playoffs," Jason Kidd said. "That's what we play the games for, to get into the postseason and see if you can get hot and lucky and see if you can win a championship. Right now guys are getting better when we take the floor. You can see the ball movement."

"We're looking to move up," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's our view. We control that with how we play, but it's how we play possession to possession. It's not a conversation about wins and losses in general. That's how you've got to approach it. You don't win championships unless you do that and you don't move up in the playoff standings unless you do that."

There it is, right there. The 2011 title on display. The Mavericks might as well be travelling with the championship banner and wearing the rings as they play.

Being the reigning kings has never been more valuable than the end of this next regular season and into the playoffs they probably will make. Other teams have confidence, but very few have this confidence earned in June celebrations, of knowing exactly what is required to be postseason ready, and only one has the certainty of being able to reach back months for the recollection, not years.

Dallas has already been able to call on the unique emotions once, during the tailspin of eight losses in 10 games in February and March, including being run out of the gym on consecutive nights by the lottery-bound Warriors and Kings. It was a sad sight. The Mavericks, though, pointed right back to the ugly time around mid-season 2010-11, and that seems to have turned out OK.

Now, they are in this blender of a Western Conference playoff race like all the other postseason hopefuls outside San Antonio and Oklahoma City, living the whiplash moments with everyone else mashed from second to 10th, being reshuffled by the night, without anything close to clarity on a first-round opponent, or if there will even be a first round.

Except they are not all the others. They are the defending champions.

"Nothing's for sure, but I'm an optimist and I'm very optimistic that we can do what's needed to be done to win enough games to be in the playoffs," Terry said. "What happens when we get there, nobody knows. You can't predict it. It's all predicated on matchups and we believe we match up very well with any of the other seven teams that'll be in the playoffs."

He had just gotten up after the seven minutes as a shrimp cocktail and dressed for the flight to Portland. He will make it through.

"Oh, yeah," Terry said. "No problem."

No problem. This is the Mavericks late in the regular season of their title defense.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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