Suns-At-Mavs Preview: Shear The Beards?

The Suns lead the West in finding ways to lose, witness what happened Tuesday as they lost to Houston at the buzzer on a goaltending call. The Mavs are trying to lose something, too - those beards, which come off tonight at the AAC if Dallas is able to win, reach the .500 mark, and remain alive in the playoff race. A preview:

It's a 7:30 tip tonight at the AAC for Suns at Dallas Mavericks, with all the trends pointing to a Dallas win.

Of course, we've fallen into that trap before; that's how Dallas has managed to fail to get to .500 a couple of times before in recent days.

"We've been in a position all year where we can't take anything for granted," coach Rick Carlisle told reporters today at shootaround. "You know, it's another opportunity to get back to even. We've had three of those in the last 10 or 12 days and it's been tough. We've got to work the game from start to finish. It's as simple as that. You know, we've got to stay in the present."

But especially considering a healthy-enough Dirk Nowitzki (nursing bone spur problems in his ankle but expected to go tonight), the gap in talent and in motivation between these two clubs is undeniable.

The Suns (23-55) have lost 10 straight counting Tuesday night's visit to Houston, a goaltending call at the buzzer being the difference that gave Houston a 101-98 win.

"Our guys fought their hearts out," said Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. "We did everything in our power to come out with a win."

Problem is, of course, they lack power. The Suns now are assured of finishing with the franchise's worst record since the 1968-69 inaugural team went 16-66. They've flopped of late because of the absence of Marcin Gortat (foot), as they are 2-15 in this stretch without him. Oh, and Dallas has won 11 of the last 12 against the Suns and have taken 10 straight at the AAC.

Additionally, of course, Phoenix is now on the butt end of a back-to-back, while the Mavs are rested, having not played since the Sunday win at Portland. Dallas has motivation on its side -- and not just because of the prospects of shaving those beards; if they can complete the four-game sweep of the season series with Phoenix, they can also remain alive, if barely, in the West playoff chase.

Of the Mavericks' five remaining games, four are at home )tonight's and then another poor team coming in New Orleans to end the year). Two of those are against contenders (Denver and Memphis). The roadie is at New Orleans.

To gain the No. 8 spot, Dallas needs the Lakers to finish no better than 1-3 and the Jazz to finish no better than 1-2 ... while also going 5-0 itself.

Some unlikely scenarios in there, but first things first: Shear the Beards.

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