Minnesota’s fight, though, is a lot more desperate.
The Timberwolves kick off a tough five-game stretch that could play a big role in their playoff fate as they open a home-and-home series with the Mavericks.
A Western Conference finalist last season, Minnesota stands 10th in the West in a tight race with Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Each of the Timberwolves’ next five games come against Western teams that appear headed for the postseason. Following Tuesday’s visit to Dallas, Minnesota plays at Memphis and San Antonio before hosting Houston next Sunday.
“These stakes are high right now,” Kevin Garnett told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There’s not a lot of time and the clock is ticking.
“If we’re going to do something, it’s got to be now.”
The Timberwolves have to do it with key players going in-and-out of the lineup.
A strained right hamstring has caused Sam Cassell to miss 22 of the last 32 games, including the last six, though he could return as soon as Sunday. Forward Eddie Griffin, on the injured list since Feb. 25 with a broken finger, won’t return until later this month. Center Michael Olowokandi has missed the last eight games with a knee problem.
Besides all those injuries, Garnett continues to play through a sore knee. It didn’t seem to bother him Friday, when he had 25 points, 18 rebounds and six assists in a 101-96 victory at Orlando.
Dallas’ injury woes have been just as bad lately, though its two best players have been back for the last two games after brief absences. The Mavericks lost 100-95 to the Lakers on Thursday as Dirk Nowitzki (knee) and Michael Finley (calf) returned.
Dallas bounced back the following night, beating Milwaukee 112-110 as Nowitzki scored 29 points and Finley added 19. The duo combined to go 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
However, the Mavs lost another starter as Josh Howard left with a sprained ankle in the first quarter. He’s listed as day-to-day.
Earlier on Friday, Dallas placed Jerry Stackhouse on the injured list with a groin problem that has sidelined him three different times this season. Plus, center Erick Dampier has missed the past 10 games with a foot problem.
The Mavs must fight through those injuries if they want to hold on to homecourt advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They have a two-game lead over Sacramento for the fourth seed in the West.
“You’ve got teams battling for playoff position,” said Dallas’ Jason Terry, who had 28 points Friday. “We’re trying to hold our ground. It’s desperation out there. Every play counts, every free throw, every box out, every blocked shot.
“Everything is on the line.”