The Dallas Mavericks could get caught looking ahead.
There’s no way they should be.
With a Midwest Division showdown looming, the Mavericks first must take care of one of the worst teams in the Western Conference—the Los Angeles Clippers.
While Dallas is fifth in the West standings, just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers own the conference’s second-worst record.
The next game on the Mavericks’ schedule—and the midway point of their five-game homestand—is Thursday’s nationally televised matchup with the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio defeated Dallas in last year’s conference finals, but the Mavs have won both meetings this season.
Ironically, Dallas has lost its two games with the Clippers this season after losing just twice in the previous 19 matchups. Los Angeles now has a chance to win the season series for the first time since 1997-98.
While the Clippers’ Corey Maggette has averaged 28 points in the two meetings, Elton Brand has totaled 40 points and 30 rebounds while helping limit Dirk Nowitzki to an average of 16 points on 29 percent shooting (10-for-35).
Both power forwards have played very well lately.
Brand has scored 70 points in the last two games—both Clipper wins—and has averaged 28.3 points and 11.5 boards in his last four outings.
Nowitzki has averaged 26.4 and 10.3 in his last seven games, including 25 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s 97-88 victory over Houston.
Dallas overcome a 16-point, first-quarter deficit to win for the sixth time in eight games and improve to 15-4 over the last six weeks.
“It didn’t look good to start,” said Mavs guard Steve Nash, who had 10 points and nine assists. “We were thinking it might not be our night. But we kept plugging away and gave ourselves a chance.”
Brand had 31 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in Saturday’s 105-103 victory over Milwaukee as the Clippers snapped a five-game road losing streak.
“I was ready. I don’t have anything to do tomorrow but practice. I had some big blocks and some energy out there,” Brand said. “It was a tough game, I’m proud we pulled it through. A lot of things were against us, we pulled it out. That is something we need to do on the road.”
STANDINGS (through Feb. 22): Clippers - 5th place (tied), 16 GB, Pacific Division. Mavericks - 3rd place, 4 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Clippers - Brand, 20.8 ppg and 11.6 rpg; Jaric, 4.7 apg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 21.5 ppg; Walker, 9 rpg; Nash, 8.3 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Clippers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 20; Clippers, 115-105. At Dallas, Maggette scored 26 points, Richardson had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Brand added 22 and 20.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Clippers - 8-19 on the road; Mavericks - 24-4 at home.