The Dallas Mavericks can still earn the third seed in the Western Conference but will need to beat the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and get some help to reach that spot.
Both teams have qualified for the postseason, with Sunday’s regular-season finale having a say in the seedings.
Dallas (51-30) can earn the No. 3 spot if it finishes in a tie with Golden State; to do that the Mavericks must beat San Antonio and have Golden State lose at New Orleans on Sunday.
The Spurs (34-47) will be the 10th seed in the conference and play ninth-place New Orleans in the play-in tournament on Wednesday in the Crescent City.
The Mavericks’ most recent game was a 128-78 thrashing of Portland on Friday behind 39 points and 11 rebounds from Luka Doncic, 18 points from Dwight Powell, 15 from Dorian Finney-Smith and 14 points (in just 16 minutes) from Spencer Dinwiddie.
Doncic racked up 25 of his points in the third quarter.
“I get hot for a living,” Doncic said with smile after the win.
Dallas won by 50 points despite resting its starters for the entire fourth quarter. It was the Mavericks’ 16th win in their past 21 games.
“Our defense was great today,” Doncic said. “The goal was to keep (Portland) under 100 (points), so we did a great job defensively. Then we just played out of that.”
Dallas will have the services of Doncic, who faced a suspension for the finale after being assessed a technical foul, his 16th of the season, after the first quarter of Friday’s win. On Saturday, the NBA overturned the suspension, allowing Doncic to play on Sunday in the crucial game.
“Honestly, I’m tired, it’s been a long year,” Doncic said after the win. “This is what it’s about, the playoffs. I’ll be ready to go.”
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the Mavericks will start the playoffs at home for the first time since 2011.
“There’s a lot of growth this year on this journey, so we checked the box there,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “We still have a game to get better.”
San Antonio settled for the last spot in the play-in tourney after a 100-94 loss at home to Golden State on Saturday. Lonnie Walker IV led the Spurs with 24 points in the setback, while Tre Jones had 15, Joshua Primo added 14, Josh Richardson contributed 10 points, and Zack Collins and Jock Lansdale pulled down 11 rebounds each.
The Spurs played without four starters — Dejounte Murray (upper respiratory illness), Devin Vassell (left heel soreness), Keldon Johnson (right knee soreness) and Jakob Poeltl (lower back soreness). San Antonio still found a way to cut a 17-point Golden State third-quarter lead to two points in the final seconds before succumbing.
San Antonio has shown that it can compete with any team, even with a sometimes rag-tag lineup.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will use the final game to keep his players sharp.
“We will just try keep our rhythm,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty well. Would like to continue doing that. Not sustain any injuries. Stay in shape, that sort of thing.”
–Field Level Media