Can Mavs Still Get Home Court Advantage?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The final stretch of games has arrived for Dallas, and the sixth-seeded Mavericks are in virtually no danger of slipping to the seventh seed, yet are only half a game behind Memphis for the fifth seed, and are still within optimistic striking distance of San Antonio for the fourth seed and the coveted home court advantage. For Dallas in particular, playing at home vs. playing on the road is the difference between winning and losing. Dallas has the best home record in the league, with only five losses and a whopping 33 wins, but they have only won 15 road games while dropping 23. For Dallas, home court advantage could mean the difference between going home in the first round or sticking around for the second. Does the schedule give them a real opportunity to get that fourth seed?

Forget Memphis for now. If Dallas wins its remaining six games, including a game against Memphis, then it will guarantee itself the fifth seed. At best, then, the Mavericks will end the season 54-28, six wins shy of last season's record. But forget about the fifth seed. Can they make it to the fourth?

The Mavs are 3.5 games behind San Antonio. Granted, Dallas has an easier lineup, facing mostly mediocre teams. Of course, there's no guarantee that Dallas will even beat Seattle tonight, let alone Memphis and Houston towards the end of their regular season, but we're talking best-case scenarios here. Suppose they go 6-0 in the home stretch. What would have to happen to the Spurs to give Dallas the fourth seed?

The Spurs are now 52-25, so that means they can only win at most two more games before their next win clinches the fourth seed. They have five games left, so they need to get three losses. Can the Clippers beat the Spurs? Not likely. Can Seattle beat the Spurs tomorrow after losing to the Mavs tonight? They are 0-3 against San Antonio this season, and it doesn't look like their fortunes are about to change. So those two teams are the two wins that the Spurs can essentially bank on.

That leaves Portland twice and Denver once as the teams that Dallas needs to step up and beat the Spurs so that the Mavs will get into the fourth seed by winning all their remaining games. The Spurs are so far 2-0 against the Blazers and 2-1 against the Nuggets this season, but Dallas did topple the Spurs in their regular season opener. Stranger things have happened, but with the Spurs healthy and playing their best ball of the season now, it's just not very likely.

If the Spurs do lose all three of those games and tie Dallas for the regular season record, Dallas would own the tiebreaker, since they have beaten the Spurs 3-1 this season.

But if the Mavericks dream of making it to the second round on the back of home court advantage in the first round, they should rethink their strategy and realize that they will almost surely not have home court advantage. Instead, they should look to improve their road game. Dallas has three more road games this season, against Seattle, Golden State, and Houston, and they should learn to win on the road in this final stretch.

All they really need to do in the first round is steal a game or two on the road, and then rely on their home court advantage to win the rest of the games.

Dallas hosts another small ball, three-point chucking team on Tuesday as the Seattle SuperSonics come to town. The game starts at 7:30pm tonight and will be broadcast on Fox Sports South West and NBA League Pass.

Dirk Nowitzki was named yesterday as the Player of the Week for the preceding week. Nowitzki averaged 32 points on 57 percent shooting, 11.7 rebounds, and four assists, and led the Mavs to a 4-0 week. The change in the Mavericks fortunes coincided exactly with head coach Don Nelson's decision to use a smaller lineup.

Dwain Price ofThe Ft. Worth Star-Telegram notes: Steve Nash has 33 assists in the past two games. The 19 assists Nash had last Tuesday against Cleveland is a team record for a regulation game and the most in the NBA this season... Of the Mavs' final six games, two are against the Sonics, including Saturday afternoon in Seattle... The Mavs have grabbed at least 20 offensive rebounds in 11 games this season. Last year, they accomplished that feat only once... The Mavs lead the NBA in fewest turnovers per game (12.3).

Josh Howard
(hamstring) had negative MRIs on Friday, played 27 minutes on Saturday, and is listed as day-to-day.Tony Delk(ankle),Tariq Abdul-Wahad (knee), andJon Stefansson(ankle) are all on the injured list.


Eddie Sefko ofThe Dallas Morning News writes: The Mavericks woke up Monday morning knowing that if they sweep their remaining six games – and it doesn't seem so farfetched anymore – they will have no lower than the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.That's what a four-game winning streak will do for a team's standing, not to mention its momentum and confidence. One Maverick in particular is trying to patch together a feel-good attitude after what has been a disappointing season personally. Dirk Nowitzki's scoring average has dipped three points from last season. You can argue that the acquisition of Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison impacted that. But his rebounding is down and most distressing to him has been his 3-point shooting percentage – a lowly .338, well below last season's 379.

Dwain Price ofThe Ft. Worth Star-Telegram writes: Perhaps no one is more excited about the Mavericks qualifying for the playoffs than Antawn Jamison.After playing the first five years of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, Jamison became accustomed to planning his summer vacation this time of the year. This year, he's preparing for his first trip to the playoffs since being chosen with the fourth pick of the 1998 NBA Draft. "It's been six years in the making," Jamison said after Monday's practice. "For six years, as soon as the season was over with, I'm at home with that remote [control] seeing what's going on. "But I've been itching for this opportunity. [Antoine] Walker and Michael [Finley] have already prepared me, as far as the atmosphere. [Walker] told me the popcorn pops different during the playoffs."