The Mavericks know they have the talent to climb much higher.
Going into Friday night’s home game at 7:30 against the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center, the Mavericks are 29-21 and a half-game behind both Golden State (29-20) and Phoenix (29-20). The Mavericks, however, are only two games ahead of Memphis (26-22).
“With a couple of games we can be out of the playoffs, with a couple of wins we can be even seventh or eighth or sixth,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be tight all the way during the season.
“It’s been that way the last couple of years. The seedings come all the way down to the last couple of weeks of the season, so you’ve got to stay the course.”
Wednesday’s critical 110-96 victory at Memphis put the Mavericks in position to start thinking about bigger and better things than simply an eighth-place finish in the West. Especially since that would mean a first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Portland.
“I just think at this point, with a game like [Wednesday] night, we’re at a point here where we’ve just got to keep pushing forward and keep working to get better and seeing where we can go with this,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s important to look up and not look down and just keep gunning for people that are ahead of us and have that mindset instead of looking the other way and trying to hold on.”
The mindset of the Mavericks is to leapfrog the Suns and Warriors before resting for the All-Star break Feb. 14-16. After hosting the Jazz on Friday, the Mavericks have a three-game road trip to Boston, Charlotte and Indiana before the All-Star break.
“You’ve got to try to play hard every night and give yourself a chance to win as many games as possible,” Nowitzki said. “It sounds pretty simple and stupid, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time and win your home games when you can.
“That’s very important to protect your home court and go out on the road and steal some once in a while. Any time you can move up you want to move up.”
The Mavericks want to ride the momentum fueled by the win at Memphis, which gave them the season series and a 3-0 record against the Grizzlies.
“That was definitely a great win [Wednesday] night, so hopefully there’s no let-up [Friday] against a hard-playing Utah team, and then we’re going to hit the road for a couple,” Nowitzki said. “So hopefully we can carry some momentum right to the break, and after the break it’s going to be tough.
“We’ve got the champs [Miami] coming in here right after the break, and then we’re on the road for a bunch actually. So it’s a tough schedule, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”
Despite ranking sixth in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 44.1 percent, guard Jose Calderon was not among the eight contestants the NBA chose Thursday to participate in the 3-point contest during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli (44.3 percent) is the only one of the eight chosen who is shooting better from 3-point range than Calderon.