The Dallas Mavericks have been wildly inconsistent on their own floor as they’re fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Though they’re also in the mix for a top-four seed, just getting into the postseason is a big deal to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Saturday night’s trip to Dallas may not be the best place for the Thunder to clinch their first playoff berth in five years, but they’ll attempt to snap a nine-game road losing streak in the series against a Mavericks team eager to avenge a blowout loss.
The Thunder (46-28) have been outstanding on the road, with a 22-15 record that’s second-best in the West behind Dallas. They improved to 10-4 away from home since Feb. 1 when Kevin Durant(notes) poured in 37 points Wednesday in a 109-104 win at Boston.
The franchise didn’t make the playoffs in its final three seasons in Seattle, and after finishing 23-59 in 2008-09, whenever the Thunder make their postseason bid official will mean quite a bit to Durant and his teammates.
“It feels good to be one of the first guys to experience that … and be a part of a new organization,” said Durant, who’s averaged just 16.0 points in five career games in Dallas. “The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have much history. I’d like to be the guy who makes that history, so it feels good to come and play here.”
With four of their next five against Dallas, Utah, Denver and Phoenix - the four teams in front of them - there’s also plenty of opportunity for the Thunder to rise from sixth.
Oklahoma City’s recent track record in Dallas, though, hasn’t been good. The Mavericks have won nine straight in the series by an average of 11.7 points dating to the Thunder’s days in Seattle.
They beat the visiting Mavericks 99-86 on Feb. 16 in the first game after Dallas (50-26) acquired Caron Butler(notes) and Brendan Haywood(notes) from Washington. The Mavericks shot a season-low 32.3 percent in that loss, their last for nearly a month.
Since the team’s 13-game winning streak has ended, however, it’s looked less and less like a legitimate Western contender. Dallas is 5-5 in its last 10, including three home losses by an average of 19.3 points.
The Mavericks shot 38.3 percent in Thursday’s 97-82 loss to visiting Orlando. After going 32-9 at home and 18-23 on the road last season, Dallas 24-14 away from the American Airlines Center in 2009-10 but already has 12 home losses.
“Do I have a great answer for it? I don’t,” Carlisle said. “We’re a much better road team than we were last year. That’s a real positive. We’re not as good at home as we were last year and that’s been a challenge.”
The Mavericks have beaten the Lakers, San Antonio, Boston, Denver, Orlando and Atlanta on the road this season, but four of those heavyweights have won in Dallas.
“Look, we want the best seed possible,” Carlisle said. “We are trying to get to number two, or number one, if something happened and the Lakers completely fell off the face of the earth. But playing your best at the right time is the real critical thing.”
Though the Thunder last won in Dallas on Dec. 9, 2004, the three meetings since the move to Oklahoma City have been decided by a total of seven points.