The next two games the Dallas Mavericks play will have definite long-term ramifications as far as their playoff hopes are concerned.
That’s because both games are against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavericks (34-35) are holding onto the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference standings, and are a game ahead of the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz (33-36). Dallas, however, is also only one game in the loss column behind both the sixth-seeded Blazers (36-34) and seventh-seeded Houston Rockets (35-35).
The Mavs will host the Blazers at 3 p.m. Sunday at American Airlines Center — and play them again at Portland on Wednesday The stakes have suddenly become extremely high.
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“This is definitely a big game,” guard Raymond Felton said after Saturday’s practice. “If we can get this one [Sunday] it’s going to be a big, big, big win for us.
“We get the one at home and then we’ll worry about the one in Portland after that. But the biggest thing is we’ve got to get this one [Sunday] afternoon.”
We feel like we can control our own destiny, just take it one game at a time and go from there.
Mavericks guard Raymond Felton
The Mavs and Blazers only play three times this season. Dallas won Round 1 115-112 in overtime in Portland on Dec. 1. If they win one of these next two, they will hold the tiebreaker in case these two teams close the season with identical records.
“This is a tiebreaker game for us,” point guard Deron Williams said. “We only play them three times, so this is a huge game for us. If we get this one it’ll be big, especially because we have a home and away with them.”
The challenge of at least winning one of the next two against the Blazers isn’t lost on coach Rick Carlisle.
“Really, every game for the last three months has been really important, and now is certainly no different,” Carlisle said. “And it’s getting more important before it’s getting less important.”
Having lost seven of their last eight games to endanger their playoff chances, the Mavericks are relegated to being daily scoreboard watchers. It’s not exactly a ritual they enjoy.
Any time you lose seven in a row or seven out of eight and you’re on a losing streak, everybody’s crabby. Nobody likes that, so things get testy. I think it’s easy to start questioning things and you’ve got to fight that.
Mavericks guard Deron Williams
“We know where we’re at, we know how important these last 13 games are, and so I try not to pay attention to that,” Felton said. “We feel like we can control our own destiny, just take it one game at a time and go from there.”
In the case of the Blazers, it’s a two-game special.
“When you sign up for the NBA you have to accept what the schedule is,” Carlisle said. “Look, it’s good. The whole thing is staring us right in the face. We’ve got an opportunity to control our situation.”
The Mavs also have to control the emotions that come when losses start piling up in bunches.
“Any time you lose seven in a row or seven out of eight and you’re on a losing streak, everybody’s crabby,” Williams said. “Nobody likes that, so things get testy, I think it’s easy to start questioning things, and you’ve got to fight that.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough to stay with what we’re doing. We know what we do works when we do it well, and honestly we just got to get back to that.”
Don’t expect the Mavericks to be at full strength when they host Portland on Sunday.
Forward Chandler Parsons is listed as doubtful with a sore right hamstring, and shooting guard Wesley Matthew is listed as probable after he injured his right knee during a nasty spill in Friday’s 130-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Also, Williams said he plans to play, although he’s dealing with a sore right calf.
“Wes seems to be doing OK,” Carlisle said. “We’re a little banged up, but we’re going to come out fighting our butts off.”