3-pointer: Playoff realities are hitting hard

April, 8, 2012
4/08/12
8:30
AM CT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Mavericks' locker room was as solemn Saturday night as at any point since the Game 6 loss at San Antonio to end the 2010-11 season.

Reality set in after the 94-89 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a game Dallas fell behind 26-6 after 11 minutes, that time truly is running out.

"Two games now, the opportunity was there and it’s gone now," Jason Terry said of consecutive losses to Portland and Memphis. "So like I said, Sacramento [on Tuesday] is a must-win. You can’t drop three in a row and remain in this playoff race. Everybody should have a sense of urgency. If they don’t, they don’t care."

The Mavs finished Saturday in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with just one fewer loss than ninth and 10th-place Phoenix and Utah, both of which have played one fewer game than Dallas.

"Looking at the standings should get us even more motivated," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm not a big watcher of standings, but for anybody that is, it brings to the forefront the urgency of the situation."

The good news is the Mavs hold the tiebreaker over the sixth-seeded Rockets and the three teams beneath them.

Dallas dropped to 11-16 on the road and has fewer road wins than only Houston among the top nine teams in the West. The Mavs return home on Tuesday against Sacramento. Think that's an automatic win? Not so fast. Dallas is 20-10 at home, the most home losses other than Denver among the top 10 West teams. The Mavs are fresh off a 1-2 homestand, losing to lottery-bound Portland.

The Mavs play just three of their final nine games at home, and these games come quickly with five in seven days, including a four-game road swing with two back-to-backs at Portland and Golden State and then the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah.

Terry brought another perspective to the final nine.

"We have to get a win; go home, play Sacramento, a team that just beat us," Terry said. "Look at the schedule that’s ahead of us, and every team that we face down the stretch has beaten us or we haven’t played yet, and that’s Chicago and Atlanta. Everybody else has had some success against us one way or another, and we’ve got to figure it out."

Actually, that's not altogether true. The Jazz and the Rockets have yet to beat Dallas. But bet they'll be looking to add their names to the growing list.

Three more thoughts heading into two days off:

1. 50-win seasons kaput? In this 66-game season, obviously the Mavs' run of 11 consecutive seasons with at least 50 wins was in serious jeopardy. The equivalent of winning 50 games in an 82-game season (a .610 winning percentage) is about 40 games (.606). Dallas will have to go 9-0 to end the regular season to reach that mark. There will be no asterisk: The streak will end.

2. Brandan Wright on the rise: The lanky 6-foot-10 center played two minutes in Wednesday's game against the Grizzlies. In games with burly centers that are, on paper, harder matchups physically for Wright, he has tended to play few minutes. He was going to have to play Saturday with Ian Mahinmi out. Wright came through with 16 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes. He was so effective that he replaced Brendan Haywood in the starting lineup in the third quarter. It also raises questions about Haywood's performance in a big game against Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Haywood played less than 12 minutes and finished with one point and five rebounds.

3. Vince Carter revs up: One of Carter's best moves these days is getting a step on the defender, driving to the bucket and, instead of one of his past-life massive jams, going finesse with a sweet underhand scoop or reverse layup. He had a couple Saturday night as he scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, matching his most field goals in a game since March 13 and his most efficient shooting night since Jan. 14 when he also went 6-of-8. In his previous four games, Carter was just 10-of-36.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2