By Bryan Murphy
The stage is set for a Monday night showdown between the 7 and 8 seeds of the Western Conference.
Just one game separates the 7-seed Dallas Mavericks and the 8-seed Utah Jazz after the Mavericks fell to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon and the Jazz took care of the Denver Nuggets.
Just two weeks ago, it seemed as if the Mavs were almost dead in the water but a six-game winning streak, including wins against Houston (9-seed) and Memphis (6-seed), has given the team a new playoff life. Although the magic number for the Mavs to earn a playoff spot is just one game, Dallas ideally still would like to avoid a first-round matchup with either the Spurs or Warriors. But, if the Mavs fall to the Jazz Monday night, they’ll be left desperate taking what they can get.
Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah is never an easy place to play. Utah is 24-16 at home this season and three of those losses at home have been recent close games with the elite of the Western Conference where they could have come out victorious.
This will be the second night of a back-to-back for both teams but there will be a slight advantage for Dallas. Only Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton logged more than 30 minutes played in the loss to the Clippers whereas the entire starting lineup for the Jazz all put in over 30 minutes against Denver. Of course Utah has a much younger core group of players compared to the veterans for the Mavs, but that could still be a factor.
The Mavericks then get to come home to close out the 2015-2016 regular season against San Antonio. Dallas hasn’t had much luck against the division rival Spurs this season. Not only have the Mavs lost all three meetings this season against San Antonio, but the average margin of defeat in those three games is by almost a whopping 17 points.
The last time the Spurs came to town on Feb. 5, the Mavs were absolutely dismantled and embarrassed in front of the home crowd. That game was over by halftime, a first half in which the Mavs were only able to muster a measly 26 points, en route to the forgetful 116-90 loss.
The Spurs are actually having perhaps its best regular season in team history. They’re 65-14 and if it weren’t for the record breaking Golden State Warriors, everybody would be talking about the magical run the Spurs are on yet again.
A glimpse of hope for Dallas to come away with a season ending win Wednesday night could all come down to if coach Gregg Popovich decides to rest his starters for the season finale. The Spurs will be the 2-seed no matter and “Pop” has been known to do things like this in the past. If that’s what he decides to do against Dallas, then the chances for victory increase tremendously. If for some odd reason he decides to roll all of his main guys out there, then don’t be surprised if it’s another long night for the Mavericks.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
4/11 @Jazz 8:00 pm
4/13 vs Spurs 7:00 pm