Mavericks start loaded finishing stretch with Oklahoma City contest

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No alarm bells are going off just yet at the Dallas Mavericks’ headquarters. But there are probably a few people walking around with sweaty palms, especially since the Mavs have given everyone associated with their organization reasons to be concerned about their postseason status.

With two losses at home in their past three games, the Mavs are flirting with missing out on the NBA playoff party for a second straight season. That hasn’t happened since the Mavs were playoff spectators from 1991-2000, an ignominious period when the Mavs were one of the worst teams in professional sports.

Even with the eighth-seeded Mavs (42-29) staring at a virtual heavyweight schedule during their final 11 games, they don’t envision their current plight as a doom-and-gloom situation.

“This is not the time to panic,” guard Monta Ellis said.

Maybe not, but all of the Mavs’ remaining games are against Western Conference foes, and seven are against teams with winning records. That includes top-seeded San Antonio, second-seeded Oklahoma City, sixth-seeded Golden State, seventh-seeded Memphis, ninth-seeded Phoenix, and two games against the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

The Mavs, tied with Phoenix for the West’s final playoff spot, hope to start shifting some momentum in their direction at 7 p.m. Tuesday when they host Oklahoma City (51-18) at American Airlines Center. On March 16 in Oklahoma City, the Mavs handed the Thunder its worst loss of the season, 109-86, although OKC played without point guard Russell Westbrook, who is expected to play Tuesday.

“Right now, last week was last week,” forward Shawn Marion said. “This is a new game here. … But we’ve still got to have the same mindset, go out there and try to make it hard for them to compete and try and get this win.”

Cuban on Collins

Not a sound was murmured from the crowd at the American Airlines Center on Sunday when Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins entered the game against the Mavs with 5:02 remaining before halftime.

And that’s the way owner Mark Cuban wanted it.

Collins created a national stir last year when he announced that he was gay. Thus, when the Nets signed him to a 10-day contract last month, he became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major North American professional sports leagues.

Will Collins’ admission serve as the gateway for other pro athletes to come out of the closet?

“I don’t think it matters,” Cuban said. “We already know there are more gay players in the league. Whether or not they come out is almost irrelevant. It’s just personal preference. There’s no reason ever, ever to discuss anybody’s sexuality because that’s their private business, and there’s no reason to start now.”

Cuban’s ‘Entourage’ experience

Cuban is back in town after jetting to Southern California to be a part of the Entourage movie, an extension of the HBO series that ended its run in September 2011 .

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is also in the movie.

“I had three scenes and five or six lines,” Cuban said. “I had fun with Russell Wilson. Me and him are in a scene together. He’s a good dude, a really good dude.”

Marion’s milestones

Marion has 1,719 career steals and needs just six more to pass Magic Johnson for 17th place on the NBA’s all-time list.

Also, with two more blocked shots, Marion will become the 52nd player in league history to accumulate at least 1,200 blocks.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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