Mavs at Nuggets: How Bad Do They Want 50?

'We're playing,' coach Rick Carlisle says, 'to play better.' And that may be your hint as to the real goals - more real than achieving 50 wins - of the Mavs as they tipoff in Denver tonight.

Mavs want 50?

The Dallas Mavericks have clinched what they can clinch. They are a 47-win team that is locked into the No. 7 slot in the West, scoreboard-watching to see who their first-round opponent will be while sending the scouting department off to watch the Rockets, Grizzlies, Spurs and Clippers.

But tonight (7:30 pregame, 8 p.m. tip on FOX Sports Southwest, and I'll be part of "MAVS Live'' all night) the Mavs will put on display their desire to reach 50 wins.

"Fifty wins is always an elite target to get as a franchise," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think that's a goal that we should have. We may rest guys a little bit, but we're looking to play better."

The Mavs have an impressive history there. Same with making the playoffs, something Dallas has done in 14 of the last 15 seasons. There are four regular-season games left: at Nuggets, at Lakers on Sunday, at Jazz on Monday and then closing Wednesday at home against the Blazers.

It's a three-game trip against losing teams ... three winnable games, obviously.

But how much should we care?

Dallas hasn't won back-to-back games in three weeks and is on a four-game road skid. But to me, this needs to all be about "playing well'' while "staying healthy,'' not about achieving a goal that will mean very little if this group limps through a first-round playoff loss. Dallas is doing the right thing with Chandler Parsons sitting out due to a swollen knee, will do the right thing if it follows through on plans to let Rajon Rondo miss one of these games, and is better off, overall, mailing in that Monday game at Utah (the second night of a b-2-b) by letting Dirk, TY, Amare, whomever, sit it out.


"We're playing,'' Carlisle said, "to play better.'' That means quit giving up 114 points per game, as has been the case in the last five. It means getting Monta off this crummy run during which he's shooting just 17 percent from the arc since the All-Star Break. It means fixing some of the little things, like Dallas' recent struggles from the free-throw line, a highly uncharacteristic problem.

Does it need to mean strive for 50? The Mavs haven't won 50 since 2011-12, when they won the title. The first achievement doesn't lead to the second achievement ... and therefore, all things considered, the first achievement is a relatively empty one.

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