(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Atlanta and previews the Dallas Mavericks' final regular-season showdown as they wait to see which team they'll match up against in the first round of the playoffs.
Preview: Mavericks (36-29) at Hawks (39-26)
ATLANTA — After a four-day layoff in between games, the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks enter their final regular-season test still uncertain of their first-round opponent in the playoffs.
Currently in the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff picture and needing a win and a Denver loss at Minnesota to move up to the sixth seed, the Mavericks (36-29) will either begin defense of their title in Oklahoma City or Los Angeles against the Lakers.
And with plenty of uncertainty surrounding their future travel plans, the Mavs will step into Philips Arena looking for a fourth straight victory over an Atlanta Hawks team that’s battling for home-court advantage over Boston in the East.
“I liked the four days,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the much-needed rest before the start of the postseason. “We got a couple of good days of practice in and now it’s time to go play again.
“It doesn’t matter,” he added in regard to the undetermined playoff picture. “There’s only one matchup set, I think, in the whole league. So, everything is up in the air. That’s just the way it is. We’ve gotta concentrate on playing our game well. That’s what it’s about.”
Choosing to sit point guard Jason Kidd and sixth man Jason Terry last Saturday night in Chicago before falling to a third straight road loss, 93-83, the Mavs continued the trend of resting their floor general for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
Last season, Kidd received in essence a full week off heading into the postseason to revitalize his aging body. Now, the future Hall of Famer and his 39-year-old legs admit that sitting out Thursday night’s contest against the Hawks (39-26) could prove beneficial in the big picture should Carlisle once again go that route.
“In practices the last two days we’ve gone hard and I feel great physically. We don’t know what’s the plan until we get to Atlanta and we’ll talk about it,” Kidd explained.
He added: “(The week off last season) was huge, especially coming off the six (games) in 10 days. And then playing to the end of June, so that week off definitely gave me a chance to rest up and make the push that we did. So, hopefully we can get the same result this year.”
Meanwhile, regardless of if Kidd is in the lineup or not, the Mavericks plan to use Thursday night as a precursor to the playoffs, hoping to add one more notch in the win column before heading to meet the Thunder or Lakers in their home gyms.
“I mean, it’s just a tune-up for us,” newcomer Vince Carter said. “It’s still important in my mind. For me, I just try to get my rhythm, be aggressive and try to get in the playoff mentality. So, I think everybody is going to really approach it the same.”
Note: The Mavericks conclude the regular season on Thursday night in Atlanta against the Hawks. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
Dates and times for the first two home playoff games have not been announced but will be posted on mavs.com by April 27th.