By Bryan Murphy
Don’t look now, but the Dallas Mavericks own the longest current winning streak in the NBA at four games. These wins have come at a time when Dallas desperately needs victories the most heading into the final five games of the season.
Dallas currently sits one game above .500, at 39-38, and tied with the Utah Jazz for the 7-seed in the playoff picture. The 6-seed Portland Trailblazers are just one and a half games up on the Mavs and the struggling Memphis Grizzlies are just two games up on Dallas for the coveted 5-seed.
More importantly, all of these teams are trying to just lock up their playoff spot and fend off the 9-seed Houston Rockets, who are just one game behind both Utah and Dallas. That fact alone gives the Wednesday showdown between the Rockets and Mavericks that much more significance.
James Harden and his Rockets come to town flying high after their massive comeback win Sunday afternoon against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden had yet another MVP-like performance as he poured in 41 points and made some clutch buckets down the stretch. Bench players Clint Capela and K.J. McDaniels played important roles in the fourth quarter and provided an unexpected spark that propelled them to the victory.
Although the Mavs have dropped two of the three games this season to the Rockets, they have still done a decent job defensively on Harden. The Mavs have held Harden to 5-of-22 shooting from behind the arc and under 40 percent total from the field. If Dallas can repeat a similar performance as they did on Nov. 14, then they just might even the season series and inch that much closer to solidifying a playoff spot.
Next up, the road gets even bumpier as the Mavs welcome the Grizzlies to town in another game where Dallas can control its own destiny. Luckily for the Mavs, Memphis is playing their worst basketball of the season and have lost six straight. Their plummet in the standings has allowed hope for Portland, Dallas or Utah to obtain that 5-seed. Being the 5-seed is huge because that means you avoid Golden State, San Antonio and even OKC in a disastrous first round matchup.
A main reason for the Grizzlies’ struggles has been due to the injuries to their two best players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Gasol is out for the season after a fracture in his right foot and Conley has been nursing an Achilles injury that will most likely keep him out for the rest of the season. The Mavericks will have to take advantage of this depleted Grizzlies squad that is depending on guys like Jordan Farmar, Chris Anderson and Matt Barnes.
To finish out the week, Dallas takes its final road trip of the regular season to face the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers virtually have the 4-seed locked up and don’t have a whole lot left to play for. But, the Clippers just got high-flying forward Blake Griffin back from injury, who had been out since Christmas Day.
In Griffin’s return, he only had six points on 2-of-7 shooting and five rebounds in 25 minutes. Look for Los Angeles to keep their main focus on getting Griffin back in full swing and ready to go for the playoffs, a chance that could actually prove to be beneficial for Dallas as they’ll take any win they can get in these final five games of the season.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
4/6 vs Rockets 8:30 pm
4/8 vs Grizzlies 7:30 pm
4/10 @Clippers 2:30 pm