Dallas could see its hopes for the West’s top seed all but fade away with a loss at Phoenix in a matchup of teams looking to show they are still contenders to win the conference.
By losing for the third time this season to lowly Golden State on Wednesday, 114-102, the Mavericks fell 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the best record in the West.
If Dallas loses this game and San Antonio beats Orlando on Thursday, the only way the Mavs can still claim the No. 1 seed would be if they won each of their final two games and the Spurs lost all three of theirs.
Dallas will wrap up its season at home against Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio sandwiches road games at Minnesota and Houston around its home finale versus the Jazz.
Wednesday’s defeat to a Warriors team which had lost nine straight left coach Avery Johnson fuming.
“I have been waiting for 79 games to get some internal leadership, and I haven’t gotten it yet,” he said. “This is one of the most disappointing games that I’ve been a part of as Mavericks coach.”
Dallas had a five-game winning streak snapped, and now likely will have to settle for the No. 4 seed in the West playoffs because it’s in the same division as San Antonio.
“We’re still a great team in a great position,” Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse said. “We still have a lot that we want to prove once the playoffs get here, no matter what seed we are or who we’re playing. But I’m kind of glad the Golden State Warriors aren’t one of the eight (playoff teams).”
One of them will be Phoenix, which wouldn’t have to face either Dallas or San Antonio until the conference finals because it is locked into the No. 2 seed after clinching the Pacific Division.
The Suns had not been playing like they were going to be much of a threat in the postseason, going 8-9 since a season-best 11-game win streak.
Phoenix, though, came up with a key victory Tuesday as it rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to beat Sacramento 123-110, winning on the road against one of the league’s hottest teams.
“In the second half, we came out with the fire necessary to compete in the playoffs,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s the first time we’ve seen that in a long time.”
D’Antoni, who blamed himself for the team’s recent malaise, and Raja Bell had the harshest words at halftime after Phoenix allowed the Kings to score 68 points.
“We’re all professional enough to know we need to build some momentum going into the playoffs, because we’ve been struggling,” said Bell, who scored 25 points to lead seven Suns in double figures.
Dallas has won its last three games at Phoenix, but lost at home in the most recent matchup after winning the first two this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 26-14 on the road; Suns - 29-10 at home.