(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' final regular-season home game on Friday night against Golden State, after the defending champions secured a 12th straight trip to the playoffs following Houston's loss in New Orleans.
Preview: Warriors (22-39) at Mavericks (35-28)
DALLAS — For the 12th straight season, the Dallas Mavericks will be one of the last 16 teams standing.
Originally believing they would need a victory Friday night over the Golden State Warriors to secure a 12th straight trip to the playoffs, the Mavericks (35-28) received some unexpected news the night prior with the Houston Rockets falling to a 105-99 overtime loss in New Orleans to continue a six-game losing skid while lifting Dallas into the postseason.
Splitting the first two games between themselves and the Warriors (22-39) in Oakland, the defending champions will now try to put a stranglehold on the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings two nights after a 117-110 home victory over Houston. And although it’s been a whirlwind season for the Mavs in defense of the franchise’s first NBA championship, they enter Friday night sitting closer to their goal while concluding regular-season play at home in the American Airlines Center before two final road contests.
“We understand things,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “[The Houston] game was really pivotal in so many ways, because it’s a double-count game on the whole magic number thing, and it effectively takes one team out of it, which is big. We’ve got three more important games to go and they’re all meaningful.”
“We just have to keep finding a way to get the win,” new addition and eight-time All-Star Vince Carter added after a season-high 23 points. “We’re trying to solidify a spot in the playoffs and you can see it in the huddle. Everyone is focused and ready to take it to the end.”
Against Houston, Carter provided the Mavericks with a first-half spark off the bench. But it was leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki that carried the Mavs to the victory down the stretch, scoring 21 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter two nights after matching a season-high 40 points in an epic 123-121 triple-overtime loss in Utah.
“Hey, he was phenomenal,” Carter said of Nowitzki’s performance. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and I think for our team, when he has a lot of guys occupying our positions and letting him go one-one-one, he’s second to none and one of the toughest to guard one-on-one. He’s impossible to guard, because he can pump fake you and get to the free throw line or pump fake you and pull up and shoot or just shoot right over you.”
“In the second half, I got some good looks in transition, and with the pick-and-roll, I was able to get in the lane. We were spotting up our shooters and there was a lot of wide-open looks. If we get in the lane and move the ball and look for the open guy, then I think that is a fun way to play,” Nowitzki added.
Now, the Mavericks will try to ride their star player into the final three games and eventually into the playoffs, looking to duplicate last Thursday night’s 112-103 win over the Warriors — a team that’s dropped six straight and 13 of its last 15 — to begin an eventual 2-2 road trip.
Note: The Mavericks and Warriors split both meetings in Oakland this season with the season series tied at 1-1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Dates and times for the first two home playoff games have not been announced but will be posted on mavs.com by April 27th.