Just when the Dallas Mavericks needed a little break for the stretch run, up pops the NBA schedule-maker with its version of some in-season down time.
After defeating the Utah Jazz 108-101 in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, the Mavs won’t play another game until 6 p.m. Sunday at Oklahoma City.
Three days with no games will give the Mavericks a chance to rejuvenate for the stretch run as they try to grab the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re kind of beat up a little bit,” forward Shawn Marion said. “We’ve had some quite physical games lately.”
It will also give Jae Crowder a chance to return. Crowder missed the past two games with a mild abdominal strain and could be available to play against the Thunder.
The Mavs took Thursday off and will practice Friday and Saturday.
The Thunder beat the Mavericks 107-93 on Nov. 6.
“We’ve got an unusual three-day period before the next game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And we’ve got to use it to heal the wounds a little bit and get ready.”
Not counting the normal break for the All-Star Game, the only other time the Mavs had three days without playing a game was in December. On Dec. 14 the Mavs beat the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Center 106-93 and four days later they defeated the Memphis Grizzlies at the AAC 105-91.
The Mavs will finish the season playing two games in five days. They will host the Phoenix Suns on April 12 and then end the regular season in Memphis on April 16.
Memphis, the Mavs and Phoenix occupy the seventh, eighth and ninth spots, respectively, in the Western Conference.
Carlisle had no doubt forward Wayne Ellington would immediately bounce back from a subpar performance during Tuesday’s 108-85 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors.
In that game Ellington scored just five points and was 2 of 5 from the field in 15 minutes of action. But in Wednesday’s victory at Utah, Ellington produced 11 points in just 13 minutes and was 4 of 5 from the floor, including 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Wayne Ellington is a high character guy, and he’s a real pro,” Carlisle said. “Those two things will not allow him to ever pack it in — he’s going to stay ready.
“He had a disappointing night Tuesday, but he came in here [Wednesday] ready to go. He played good defense, he hit a lot of timely shots for us, and he once again proved that he was ready.”
Nowitzki moving up
Dirk Nowitzki moved past John Havlicek and into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he scored 31 points Wednesday against Utah.
Now the 16-year veteran is taking aim at Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson.
Nowitzki, who is averaging 21.5 points this season, has scored 26,426 career points to 26,668 for Wilkins and 26,710 for Robertson.
If Nowitzki plays the remaining 16 games and averages 17.8 points, he’ll pass Wilkins and Robertson and become the NBA’s No. 10 all-time leading scorer by the end of this season.