Mavericks, Wizards square off with playoffs on their minds

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The Dallas Mavericks will be looking to put a tighter stranglehold on a guaranteed playoff spot when they host the red-hot Washington Wizards on Saturday.

Washington is playing the second game of a road back-to-back after beating Cleveland 122-93 on Friday.

The Mavericks head home after a 115-105 win in Detroit on Thursday. The victory allowed Dallas (35-27) to move ahead of Portland for the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings. The top six teams in each conference avoid the play-in tournament at the end of the regular season to decide the final two spots in the postseason.

Tim Hardaway Jr. poured in a career-high 42 points in Dallas' win on Thursday, scoring 17 points in a row for the Mavericks during a crucial fourth-quarter stretch. Trey Burke added 15 off the bench, Jalen Brunson scored 13. Kristaps Porzingis hit for 11 and Jason Richardson tallied 10 for the Mavericks.

Dallas played without Luca Doncic, who missed the game in Detroit with a left elbow injury. Porzingis left the game with left knee soreness at the 4:20 mark of the third quarter. Doncic was not on the Mavericks' early injury report, while Porzingis and Maxi Kleber are listed as questionable.

"We always have this mentality of just next man up, especially with how this year has been going with COVID and people leaving and staying home because of quarantine and all that stuff," Hardaway said. "Just being able to have that next man mentality and going out there and performing is what you get paid to do."

The Mavericks have won five of their past six games to climb up the standings after a ragged start to the year. Losing in Detroit, to one of the league's worst teams, would have been a step backward for Dallas.

Hardaway, and the rest of the Mavericks' understudies, made sure that didn't happen.

"It was a very difficult game, very challenging from a physical perspective," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of the win in Detroit. "We had a lot of other guys do good things, as well. Tim was really inspired. He was our guy. In the fourth quarter when things were tough, just getting the ball to him was producing a lot of good things."

The Wizards (29-34) roll into Big D after thumping Cleveland on Friday night behind balanced scoring and Russell Westbrook's 13th triple-double in his past 15 games. The win was Washington's 10th in their past 11 games and second straight.

The Wizards are now 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, and head into play Saturday three games up on Chicago for the final spot in the play-in.

"We have a good team," Washington coach Scott Brooks said when asked about his team's recent success. "It seems like every night, somebody's stepping up."

Bradley Beal led Washington in Friday's win with 19 points as seven players scored in double figures.

Raul Neto added 17 points, Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, Daniel Gafford hit for 13 points, Ish Smith and Rui Hachimura tallied 11 each and Anthony Gill contributed 10 for the Wizards.

Washington led by six at halftime and never allowed the Cavaliers closer than four points in the second half.

"It's amazing. It's so much fun to me to see our guys do well," Westbrook said. "It's an unbelievable thing. ... Everybody eats."

With 177 career triple-doubles, Westbrook now sits five shy of breaking Oscar Robertson's record for the most in NBA history.

--Field Level Media