NBA Playoff Chase: Mavs at No. 7, But Not In Yet - The 'Game Of The Year' Tonight

The Dallas Mavericks enter the final two games of their schedule still seeking to clinch a Western Conference playoff berth. Tonight? 'The Game of the Year,' says JJB.

J.J. Barea picked a bad time to strain a groin.

Barea wasn't on the floor for Dallas' 98-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. But the loss snapped Dallas' six-game winning streak and kept the Mavs from clinching a playoff berth.


Dallas has two games remaining and there is still a chance they could miss the playoffs. Things will come in greater clarity after tonight's game at Utah. A win would clinch a playoff berth for Dallas. A loss would put them, potentially, in a win-or-stay-home scenario against San Antonio on Wednesday.

“I think (this) is the game of the year if you think about where we’re at in the standings and who we’re playing,” said Barea.

This is our final playoff chase update before the postseason starts next Sunday. Entering this week, this is how the race for the final four seeds stands.

5. Portland Trail Blazers (43-38 as of Sunday night, 1/2 ahead of Memphis, clinched playoff berth)

Last week: def. Sacramento, 115-107; def. Oklahoma City, 120-115; lost to Minnesota, 106-105.

This week: vs. Denver.

Games remaining: 1

Status: Portland did a nice job of holding serve last week, even with the loss to Minnesota. The win over Oklahoma City showed the Trail Blazers appear primed to give their first-round opponent some real difficulty.

What to expect this week: If Portland wins against Denver on Wednesday, they're the No. 5 seed. That would put the Trail Blazers a game ahead of Dallas. If Portland loses then they could fall to as low as the No. 7 seed, depending on what Dallas and Memphis do down the stretch.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (42-38 as of Sunday night, 1/2 games behind Portland; 1 game ahead of Dallas; clinched playoff berth)

Last week: def. Chicago, 108-92; lost to Dallas, 103-93; lost to Golden State, 100-99.

This week: at Los Angeles Clippers (Tuesday), at Golden State (Wednesday).

Games remaining: 2

Status: Memphis went 1-2 for the week and has lost eight of its last 10 games down the stretch. The loss to Golden State at home really hurt.

What to expect this week: The Grizzlies are in tiebreaker Hades, as they would lose any head-to-head tiebreakers with Portland and Dallas (they fare a little better in three-way tiebreaker scenarios, should it end up in a three-way tie with Portland and Dallas). The schedule down the stretch doesn't help, as the Grizzlies face a back-to-back with the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds to end the season. The only good news is that the Grizzlies are in the playoffs no matter what.

7. Dallas Mavericks (41-39 as of Sunday night, 1 game behind Memphis, 1 game ahead of Utah)

Last week: def. Houston, 88-86; def. Memphis, 103-93; lost to Los Angeles Clippers, 98-91.

This week: at Utah (tonight, 8 p.m. on TXA21), vs. San Antonio (Wednesday)

Games remaining: 2

Status: Dallas missed a chance to make its road significantly easier by losing to the Clippers. They were without J.J. Barea due to injury and the loss was significant, as he carried them through a six-game winning streak leading up to Sunday. Deron Williams was able to contribute and will be monitored tonight. Ray Felton was big against the Clippers and maybe Dirk Nowitzki (14 points) would've been bigger had coach Rick Carlisle not pulled the plug late in the game, when Dallas was creeping to within single-digits but the coach nevertheless started turning the page to this second game of a B-2-B.

And now they all turn the page ...

“Now we move on — a tough game (tonight) in one of the toughest environments against a very long, physical good team,'' Dirk said. “It’s going to be a fun challenge for us and we’ll see how it goes.”


What to expect this week: If the Mavericks can find a way to win the last two games, there is a chance they could claim the No. 5 seed (though they need some help from Portland). Dallas owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Portland and Memphis, but their chances wither significantly if the three teams end up tied. Beating Utah is critical for the Mavs. That win clinches a playoff berth.

Stay in touch with all the Mavs action tonight by following @FishSports and @PostinsPostcard on Twitter and by hanging around on Boards!

8. Utah Jazz (40-40 as of Sunday night, one game behind Dallas, one game ahead of Houston)

Last week: lost to San Antonio, 88-86; lost to Los Angeles Clippers, 102-99; def. Denver, 100-84.

This week: vs. Dallas (Monday), at Los Angeles Lakers (Wednesday).

Games remaining: 2

Status: It's like this team has nine lives. The Jazz go 1-2 and they can still — still — sneak into the postseason.

What to expect this week: This won't be an easy week for the Jazz. The Mavericks are trying to sneak into the playoffs and the Lakers want to send Kobe Bryant out a winner. That's part of the reason why the team at No. 9 could be in this until the end.

Outside Looking In

9. Houston Rockets (39-41 as of Sunday night, one game behind Utah)

Last week: lost to Dallas, 88-86; lost to Phoenix, 124-115; def. Los Angeles Lakers, 130-110.

This week: at Minnesota (Monday), vs. Sacramento (Wednesday).

Games remaining: 2

Status: A bad week for the Rockets. Plain and simple. Only the win over the Lakers salvaged it.

What to expect this week: The Rockets have to win their final two games and get some help from the Mavs and the Jazz.

With that schedule, the Mavs aren't looking for any gifts from the Rockets, or anybody else.


"We control what happens here,"  Carlisle said. "We've got to earn our way in. And that's the way it should be."

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