Dallas Mavericks

Final one-third of the season starts tonight


OKLAHOMA CITY – With the week-long NBA All-Star break over, now it’s time for the Dallas Mavericks to get back to the business of trying to climb up the Western Conference ladder.

That means putting their 36-19 record in their rearview mirror and concentrating solely on the remaining 27 games on their schedule. A schedule that consists of 16 games against teams that would be in the playoffs if the postseason started today.

"The schedule we’ve got coming up the last 20-something games is a beast,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "We’ve got one of the toughest schedules remaining in the West.

"There’s not a lot of Eastern Conference teams left. It’s going to be all Western powerhouses night-in and night-out, so hopefully we can win our fair share of it and get some momentum going into the playoffs.’’

The Mavs open the final one-third portion stretch of their schedule Thursday night at 7 when they play the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Less than 24 hours later they’ll be at home playing host to the Houston Rockets.

Dallas only has five back-to-backs left. And it has to play OKC three times, in addition to two games apiece against Portland, Houston, Golden State, Phoenix and the world champions San Antonio Spurs, plus single games against Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta and Toronto.

Indeed, it is an extremely challenging stretch of games that will severely test the Mavs. That’s why the Mavs, who are seeded fifth out West, were hoping Nowitzki was going to be able to get a heavy dose of rest and relaxation during the All-Star break.

However, when injuries kept New Orleans forward Anthony Davis on the sidelines for the All-Star game, Nowitzki was a late addition as his replacement. But while ditching family plans became a pain, Nowitzki was able to make the most of his time in New York.

"I think my goal this (past) weekend was to have some fun, also mix in some rest, play a few minutes, keep a rhythm, get a lob,’’ Nowitzki said. "So everything that I wanted to do, I got accomplished.

"I thought I had a good shooting rhythm going into the break, even though against Utah I missed a few. I’ve just got to keep that going, keep looking for my shot if it’s there and hopefully be the efficient scorer I can be going towards the playoffs.’’