As we head into the final weeks of the NBA regular season, the most interesting battle in the standings -- apart from the race for top lottery odds between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers -- appears to be the battle for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference. With the Dallas Mavericks (7th), Memphis Grizzlies (8th), and Phoenix Suns (9th) all entering Wednesday's games within 2 1/2 games of each other, a few wins and losses here and there could change the postseason picture substantially.
On Wednesday night, the Mavs found themselves in a fight against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, a team holding out hope for playoff berth at four games back of Phoenix. After playing to a standstill in regulation, the Mavs took a 122-121 lead on a Dirk Nowitzki basket with 33 seconds left in regulation. On the next possession, the Wolves got the ball to star power forward Kevin Love, who went to work.
As the video shows, guard Devin Harris picked up Love on a switch, eventually receiving help from Shawn Marion. The attempted trap proved feeble, however, with Love splitting the two defenders on an agile up-and-under move. Nowitzki's jumper failed to fall on the game's last possession, and the Wolves left Dallas with a 123-122 win.
With their two closest rivals winning on Wednesday, the Mavericks are now in a virtual tie with the Grizzlies for the West's 7th seed and a mere 1 1/2 games ahead of the Suns. Yet, as the Wolves lurk and Warriors sit just two games ahead of the Mavs and Grizzlies, positions could get more precarious very soon.
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