OAKLAND – As the Dallas Mavericks step into Oracle Arena on Thursday night, it’s not just revenge that they seek after finishing their lone back-to-back-to-back of the season with a 111-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors on March 10, it’s also playoff positioning as the regular season winds to a close.
Entering the night in the sixth position in the Western Conference but tied with Denver and Houston at 32-26 on the season, the Mavericks will begin their four-game road trip looking to separate themselves from the two squads with just eight games left for all three teams. And after a 110-100 home win over Sacramento on Tuesday night, the Mavs will also try to build some much-needed momentum during the stretch run.
“We’re looking to build on a night like [Tuesday night],” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the road trip after his team rebounded from losses to Portland and Memphis last weekend. “We’re looking to improve. We need to have wins. I expect that we’re going to be a together team. Each game is going to be very challenging. Every venue is tough. Every team is extremely capable. We’re going to have to bring our best.”
The defending champs also hope to once again not allow the departure of forward Lamar Odom to be a distraction, after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and the organization mutually decided to part ways on Monday, sending Odom to the inactive list for the rest of the season.
Fortunately for the Mavs’ sake, Thursday night they meet a Warriors (22-35) team that currently sits with the third-worst record in the West. Now, the Mavericks try to stack wins while also building chemistry on the fly with only eight games to position themselves in the jam-packed playoff race.
“This is a team where we have a lot of veteran guys here, so we’ve dealt with worse,” sixth man Jason Terry said after the end of the Odom saga. “Just a situation where it wasn’t working out and management has decided to move on as has the team. So, we wish him luck in his future endeavors, but as far as the Dallas Mavericks, we are a team that is vying for playoff position and we’re ready to go forward.”
“This is a good team. I think we have a solid chemistry,” new addition and backup big man Brandan Wright said. “I think it’s more from outside the locker room, people think we’re not on the same page. Inside the locker room, it was unfortunate with the Lamar incident, but we’re on the same page. We want to make it to the playoffs.”
Showing a flare for highlight reel finishes, Wright is one of many faces expected to take over the backup power forward minutes in place of Odom and behind leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki.
The former lottery pick was acquired by the Warriors on Draft Day in 2007 and spent his first two-plus seasons in the Bay Area, but was derailed by injuries. Now, the former North Carolina standout prepares to play in his former team’s home gym for the first time after missing the meeting last month with a concussion, hoping to assist the Mavericks’ veteran core in defense of last season’s title.
“It’s going to be a good fan base. I know it’s going to be rowdy, especially since it’s gonna be a national TV game,” Wright said of the atmosphere that awaits the Mavs on Thursday night. “But for us, it’s simple. We’ve gotta get a win. We can’t afford to lose games right now. We’re in a tight race, and that’s what it really comes down to.”
Note: The Mavericks begin a four-game road trip in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. The Warriors lead the season series after a 111-87 home win over the defending champions on March 10. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on TNT at 9:30 p.m. CT.
The Mavs return to the American Airlines Center on April 18 when they play host to the Houston Rockets. The Mavs lead the season series 2-0 and will go for the sweep. That game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).