After prime competitors win, Mavs focus on Pacers

DALLAS – As far as off nights go, it wasn’t a good one for the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs’ two prime competitors for the West’s last playoff seed both won. The Los Angeles Lakers held on for a 120-117 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Utah Jazz cruised to a 103-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The Mavs woke up 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Lakers and a half-game behind the Jazz. Good thing scoreboard watching and standings studying aren’t pursuits that the Mavs consider worthy of their time and mental energy.

“We’ve all got to focus on what’s here in front of our nose and not look out into the wild blue yonder,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If we do that, we’ll win our share. And if we’re supposed to get in, we’ll get in.”

The Mavs have plenty on their plate today anyway with the 45-27 Indiana Pacers in town.

The good news: Indiana is on the second half of a back-to-back, having won in Houston on Wednesday night. The Mavs have excelled at taking advantage of tired teams, going 12-2 at home against teams playing for the second consecutive night. However, the Pacers are pretty tough with no rest, as evidenced by their 13-7 record on the back end of back-to-backs.

All of the Pacers’ starters played at least 32 minutes last night, but reinforcements are reportedly on the way. According to the Indianapolis Star, Danny Granger and David West are expected to return from extended absences to face the Mavs.

Granger, who had emerged as the Pacers’ franchise player in recent years, has been out since March 6 due to soreness in his left knee and has missed all but five games this season. West, the former All-Star power forward, has missed the past six games with a lower back sprain.

UPDATE: The Pacers announced this afternoon that Granger will undergo season-ending knee surgery.