With a disappointing eight-game homestand behind them, the Dallas Mavericks face the possibility of having to win five or six of their remaining seven games just to avoid missing out on the playoffs for a second straight season.
The beginning of that long and complex journey for the Mavs (44-31) starts at 9:30 p.m. Thursday when they face the Los Angeles Clippers (53-22) at the Staples Center.
The Mavs lost control of their playoff outcome by going 4-4 on the homestand that ended Tuesday and included three losses in overtime.
Of course, the Mavs could get some help from other teams who are playing Memphis and Phoenix, the teams competing with Dallas for the last two Western Conference playoff spots.
But that’s not something the Mavs want to bank on.
“We’ve got to win the games that we have,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We don’t want to put it on everybody else and say this guy has to lose and this thing has to happen.”
What happened Tuesday against Golden State is doubly disheartening to the Mavs. With the score tied 120-120 in overtime, Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal caught a driving shot by Monta Ellis in midair with 16 seconds left, and then Golden State’s Stephen Curry drilled a game-winner jumper with 0.1 seconds left.
On Wednesday, the NBA announced that O’Neal should have been whistled for goaltending on Ellis’ shot. But that’s the type of luck the Mavs have had lately.
“We want to win those close games,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been tough, but hopefully we’ll be better.
“Out of those [seven remaining games] there probably will be seven close ones. And hopefully we won’t make those mistakes again and execute a little better and get big stops.”
Here’s a rundown of the Mavs’ remaining seven games: