DENVER – This is the Dallas Mavericks’ last chance.
No, not their last chance to make a playoff push. That ship has probably already sailed. It’s certainly far out of the Mavs’ control after Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers dropped the Mavs 2 ½ games behind the two teams they’re chasing for the West’s final playoff seed with only eight games to go.
This is the Mavs’ last chance to record a road win against a team above them in the West standings since Dirk Nowitzki’s return.
If that happens it’d be a mile-high miracle, considering that the Denver Nuggets have the NBA’s best home record at 33-3.
After Thursday night’s game in the Pepsi Center, the Mavs will have only three road games remaining on the schedule, all against sub-.500 teams.
The Mavs have a 14-23 road record, including a 2-13 mark when visiting the plus-.500 teams in the conference. Those two wins came against the Lakers and Houston Rockets early in the season, when Nowitzki was still rehabbing from his right knee scope.
Since Nowitzki’s return, the Mavs are 0-10 on the road against the West’s top nine teams, beginning with a 38-point blowout in San Antonio the night of his surprise debut.
There were also a few coulda, woulda, shoulda L’s in that mix: a three-point loss at Golden State when the Mavs cried foul, firmly believing that Brandan Wright should have gone to the line for the potential go-ahead free throws with seconds remaining; a one-point loss in San Antonio when Vince Carter missed a buzzer-beater; and an overtime loss in Oklahoma City.
But it’s a 100-94 loss in Utah on Jan. 7 and Tuesday night’s rout by the Lakers that stick out in Nowitzki’s mind.
“I actually think that playing Utah only three times this year, playing twice there, hurt us,” Nowitzki said, referring to the unbalanced schedule. “If we would have had two home games against them, we might have won those two, but they’re very good at home so we don’t have the tiebreaker. We needed this one to tie (the season series with the Lakers). We should have beaten them at home. We came up empty twice.
“Saying all that, it doesn’t look good, but we’re going to keep on fighting. This team has a lot of pride left.”
A lot of pride, but precious few chances. This is these Mavs’ last opportunity to pull off a road upset over a West team with Nowitzki on the floor.
If the Mavs manage to pull off the mile-high miracle, their slim playoff hopes will still be alive. If they lose this one, they might as well start booking their late April vacations.