Mavs set sights on playoffs, not necessarily standings

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki watches a lot of NBA games, but he’s not in the habit of scoreboard watching or checking the standings on a daily basis midway through the season.

“Coach comes in every day and reminds us what we have to do,” Nowitzki said. “We don’t really need the paper or the Internet when we’ve got coach doing that.”

Not that Rick Carlisle wants the 18-24 Mavs’ focus to be on the few teams ahead of them in the fight for the West’s final playoff seed. In fact, he says he doesn’t check the standings every day, although he will mention them to his team from time to time.

“I really solely focus on our team and what’s going on with us and who we’re getting ready to play,” Carlisle said. “I feel that’s the best way to channel energy.”

One of the times Carlisle mentioned the standings to the Mavs was during their Jan. 10 morning meeting in Sacramento. The Mavs had lost 13 of 15 games at the time, including one the previous night to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Carlisle’s point was to stress to the Mavs, who were 6.5 games out of the eighth seed at the time, that a playoff push was still very possible. They’ve won five of six games since then while the Rockets and Trail Blazers have lost a lot, cutting three games off the Mavs' deficit.

“We just looked at who was in eighth and all the teams on down and said, ‘Here’s the situation,’” Carlisle said. “‘We’ve just come through a murderous part of the schedule. We’re going to have more home than road games. We’re getting healthier. We can do this if we stick to our process.’

“But it’s absolutely essential that we stick to the things that are important to us. We’ve all got to set our sights on the goal of getting there.”