Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is approaching Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Memphis as a game his team needs to win in order to qualify for the playoffs.
The Mavs clinched a playoff spot with last Saturday’s 101-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns. But depending on what happens in other games still to be played, the Mavs could finish as high as the sixth seed, and as low as the eighth seed, in the Western Conference.
“Our perspective is we want to move up as high as we can move up,” Carlisle said. “And I think if you have the opportunity to move up, you do it, you go for it.
“We’re prepared for Wednesday at this point in time as a game that we need to win.”
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The Mavs likely will open the playoffs on the road this weekend at San Antonio or Oklahoma City. And there’s still an outside chance they could open in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
Carlisle wants the Mavs (49-32) to have some rhythm entering the playoffs, and he also wants to get back in the neighborhood they were accustomed to being in. The 50-win neighborhood.
From 2000-2001 through the 2010-2011 season, the Mavs won at least 50 games for 11 straight years. The streak was snapped when they went 36-30 in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.
The Mavs followed that up last year when they missed the playoffs with a 41-41 record.
“Yeah, 50 wins is a great accomplishment in this league,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “I think we took 50 wins for granted a little bit there a couple of times when we just did it in a row a few times.
“We won 67 [in the 2006-2007 season]. You just think 50 wins is easy to get, but it’s really not.”
The Eastern Conference will finish this season with only two 50-game winners. The West could have as many as seven 50-win franchises. The Mavs want to be in that group.
“It’s a milestone number,” Carlisle said. “One of our goals is to get back to being a 50-win team. We’ve got an opportunity to do that and we’re working hard to get ready.”
Guard Monta Ellis was named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday.
In three games for the Mavs last week, Ellis averaged 25.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest. In addition, he made 51.6 percent of his field goals.
Ellis also scored a season high-tying 37 points in Saturday’s 101-98 playoff-clinching win over Phoenix. That included 23 points in the second half.
This is Ellis’ first season with the Mavs, and his three-year, $25 million contract is already looking like a bargain.
“We’ve asked a lot of him this year,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think it’s been a more demanding year than he’s ever had on any other team in terms of what we’ve asked him to do, in terms of conditioning, weight lifting, strength training.
“We’ve got these guys doing yoga. I mean, you name it. He’s never been through all this stuff and we’re coaching him hard on offense and on defense, and he’s held the line.”
Ellis’ award comes a week after Nowitzki captured the Western Conference Player of the Week award.
It is the first time in Mavericks history that teammates have won the award in consecutive weeks.