- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – There’s no nice way to put it: The Mavericks have been miserable against the West’s best.
Dallas has lost 13 of 14 games against the conference’s top five teams, including 0-11 against the top four seeds. Six of those losses came by double figures, five by 20-plus points.
That’s a trend the Mavs have an opportunity to end with the 48-22 Los Angeles Clippers in town tonight.
“It’s time,” Shawn Marion said. “We’ve been right there scratching at the door of a lot of these best teams in the Western Conference. It’s time. We’re starting to get our continuity a little better and our defensive principles down. Gotta make it happen.”
Marion makes a legitimate point. The Mavs’ two meetings with elite West teams this month could have gone either way. Vince Carter’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out in a 92-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The score was tied with a minute remaining in a 107-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But close doesn’t count for a team fighting to get into the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season. For the Mavs to beat the odds and punch their postseason ticket, they must have some success against the West’s best, considering the 12 games left on the schedule include tonight’s meeting with the Clippers, home and road games against the Denver Nuggets and a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“We can be playing a college team – we need the win,” Carter said. “I think records really at this point go out the window because whether they’re the best team or the worst team, we have to win. We have to find a way.
“We have, what, 12 games? It’s a small window. The games are so important. It can’t matter what it says on the opponent’s jersey.”
The Mavs have kept their playoff hopes alive by going 21-13 since being a dozen-year-low of 10 games under .500. That’s the fifth-best record in the West during that span. After eight wins in 11 games, the Mavs find themselves only a game and a half behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers, losers of three in a row.
Coach Rick Carlisle acknowledges the Mavs’ lack of success against the West’s best, but it doesn’t do him any good to think about what’s already happened. He’d rather discuss the two days of meticulous preparation for the Clippers, focusing on details such as ball security and boxing out against their freakishly athletic foe.
“Right now, we need to win one game,” Carlisle said, “and that’s tonight. “