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Sunday, April 10, 2011
Seeds Nos. 2-8 still in play in final week

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- What a crazy week, and more is on the way as the NBA heads into the final week of regular-season basketball.

We had Denver Nuggets coach George Karl publicly request a playoff meeting with the Dallas Mavericks over the Oklahoma City Thunder after the Nuggets beat the Mavs, which was then followed by the Thunder thumping Karl's new-look Nuggets for the second time in a matter of days.

There was the Mavs' four-game losing slump finally being ousted  with the help of Jason Terry's second-quarter tirade with the Mavs trailing the lottery-bound Los Angeles Clippers by 14 points.

And then there's that other L.A. team. The one with Kobe Bryant and goes by the Lakers, or two-time defending champions. Count 'em, that's a four-game losing skid just as everyone was crowning them as three-peaters. At the same, as many were ready to watch the discombobulated Mavs slip to No. 4 in the Western Conference standings, they stand, remarkably, just one game behind the Lakers for the No. 2 seed entering tonight's home game against the Phoenix Suns (6:30 p.m.).

"This time of year a lot of things can happen in a short period of time," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "The key thing for us is to concentrate on our own business; keep working on our health and our game and take advantage of each opportunity the best we can."

The chances of the Mavs passing the Lakers are slim because L.A. will hold the tiebreaker by virtue of being division champions. However, as Dallas is playing host to Phoenix, the Lakers will be at home against the Thunder. L.A. then closes with a home game against the San Antonio Spurs and a visit to the not-for-long Sacramento Kings.

The Mavs play the second game of a back-to-back at the Houston Rockets on Monday and finish at home Wednesday against the New Orleans, a game that could ultimately decide the Mavs' first-round opponent.

"It's going to go down to the last game," Jason Kidd said. "I think we've all been in this position that that last game means somebody moves up, moves down, you kind of determine who you play. Going into that New Orleans game, we'll see if we have that option. You've got two through eight [seeds] that can move in these last three games."