Even with a day off Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks were still able to make some significant steps up the Western Conference playoff ladder.
The Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies all lost. The trifecta enabled the Mavs to move from a ninth seed into a tie with the Suns for the seventh seed.
Memphis (44-30) won Monday to forge a three-way tie for seventh.
The Mavs (44-30) will host Golden State (45-28) on Tuesday at American Airlines Center as they try to crawl even closer to the sixth-seeded Warriors, who have dropped two of their past three games.
“It helps, but we’ve got to handle our business,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Sunday’s games. “We’ve got to take care of what we can take of, which is our games.
“It’s always great to get help peripherally — you can’t depend on it. It really magnifies the importance of finishing this homestand the right way.’’
The Mavs are 4-3 on the eight-game homestand, which concludes Tuesday. With a four-game road trip starting Thursday in Los Angeles against the Clippers, the Mavs know that finishing strong at home could pay huge dividends.
“With everybody losing [Sunday] night, 5-3 would be huge for us,” guard Devin Harris said. “But I think every game here on out is a must-win for us to secure our playoff spot.”
The Mavs can move a half-game behind the Warriors with a victory. Golden State plays at top-seeded San Antonio on Wednesday.
“It’s a big game, no question,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “But if you look at our remaining schedule every game is big, especially how tight it is this year, not only for the seedings, but also we can still drop out [of the playoffs], and we were out [Sunday morning].
“So not only are you jockeying for position this year, but there’s still a scare of not even making the playoffs, so every game is massive. Even the Sacramento game [Saturday] was big for us to grind out a win no matter how ugly it was.”
The Warriors are 2-1 against the Mavs this season, so a win Tuesday is crucial in a tiebreaker scenario.
“Right now at this time of the year with eight [games] to go, two-game swings are big and there are going to be a lot of talk about them,” Carlisle said. “But with us it’s all about our disposition.
“So we’ve got to bring that and we’ve got to bring it for a hard 48 [minutes].”
Mavs to miss Bogut
The Mavs will catch a big break Tuesday with Warriors center Andrew Bogut out with a groin contusion he sustained Friday against Memphis.
Bogut averages 7.6 points, but he is physical and averages 10.1 rebounds and 1.86 blocks per game.
But Carlisle said the Warriors can still use big lineups with Jermaine O’Neal or Marreese Speights.
“They play a lot of minutes with smaller lineups anyway,” Carlisle said. “I guess it just exaggerates it a little bit more.
“Their small lineups are murder because they can all run around and shoot and score. Either way you’re looking at a tough guard.”
The Warriors also could be without power forward David Lee, who has missed the past two games with a strained right hamstring.
Dirk loves Final Four
A big Kentucky and UConn fan, Nowitzki could be watching his two favorite college teams battle for the national championship Monday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Nowitzki was thrilled that the Wildcats beat Michigan on Sunday and secured the last Final Four spot.
Before entering the NBA Draft out of high school, Nowitzki visited Kentucky, Stanford and California.
“Since I’m a Kentucky guy, obviously I visited Kentucky, so [Sunday’s game] was big for the boys,” Nowitzki said. “I’m happy for them.
“UConn actually has a German guy that I know — [Niels] Giffey — so I’m happy for him. It’s been a fun two weeks of madness.”