DALLAS – Never mind the magic number for the Dallas Mavericks.
The bare minimum for making the playoffs doesn’t do the Mavs much good. Does opening the postseason with a stay on San Antonio’s Riverwalk, clean as it as these days, sound like any fun?
“Honestly, we’re trying to get in,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “The magic number now is two, so as far as I’m concerned, we need to win. That’s how I look at it. I’m not really thinking too much about positioning. Our goal is to get in the playoffs and then whatever happens, happens. … We’ll talk about seedings and everything else and matchups when we’re in.”
It benefits the Mavs to live in the moment. It does them no good to ponder the big picture when they need to focus intensely on every possession.
But let’s be real -- the Mavs want no part of a playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs.
The West’s best team has defeated its Interstate 35 rival eight straight times, convincingly in most cases. Here’s how long it’s been since the Mavs got the best of the Spurs: Jason Kidd, now preparing for the playoffs as the Brooklyn Nets’ head coach, had 14 points and 10 assists in that game.
Managing to end that eight-game losing streak Thursday night at American Airlines Center would greatly help the Mavs’ chances of avoiding the Spurs in the first round.
This is as good a time to play the Spurs as any. All-Star point guard Tony Parker didn’t make the trip, staying in San Antonio to nurse a sore back that isn’t expected to be an issue in the playoffs. And the Spurs don’t have much to play for, being all but locked into the West’s top seed, three games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder with four games remaining on their schedule.
The Mavs, on the other hand, have everything to play for.
The Mavs still have slim hopes of getting the sixth seed, sitting a game back of the Golden State Warriors, although Golden State owns the tiebreakers. The Mavs’ greater concern is not being the odd team out in the three-team battle for the West’s final two playoff spots.
A 4-0 road trip put the Mavs in pole position in that race, but they didn’t get any help Wednesday night, when the Suns and Grizzlies both won. The Suns stand just a half-game behind the Mavs, the Grizzlies a game and a half back.
The Mavs can give themselves a little bit of wiggle room by beating the Spurs before the serendipitously scheduled round-robin tournament of sorts starts with Suns-Mavs on Saturday night and wraps up with a Mavs-Grizzlies regular-season finale.
Finishing last in that race gets a lottery ticket. A second-place finish wouldn’t be much more fun.