Mavs secure 12th consecutive playoff spot

The Dallas Mavericks' title defense is on.

By virtue of the Houston Rockets dropping their sixth straight game Thursday night to the New Orleans Hornets, the Mavs (35-28) clinched a playoff spot for the 12th consecutive season.

They can take it easy Friday night if they so choose when the Golden State Warriors visit the American Airlines Center in the final home game of the season. Currently occupying the sixth seed, one-half game ahead of the Denver Nuggets, Dallas plays at the Chicago Bulls on Saturday and then wraps up the 66-game, lockout-shortened season Thursday night at Atlanta.

As of today, the Mavs are in position to open the playoffs in Los Angeles against the third-seeded Lakers. However, the Los Angeles Clippers remain in play for the third seed. Dallas could also finish with the seventh seed and open the playoffs at either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs.

The Mavs will be the first defending champion since the 2007 Heat to begin their title defense on the road. Miami is the last defending champ to lose in the first round of the playoffs.