The Rockets handed the Suns yet another defeat thanks to the hand of Jermaine O’Neal, who was called for goaltending when James Harden’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“I’ve never seen a game finish in a weirder way,” O’Neal explained.
The Mavericks, who hold the 10th spot in the Western Conference, have the slightest hopes of making the playoffs. Dallas currently stands 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final seed. The Mavericks must add to the Suns’ 10-game losing streak if the team has any chance of reaching the postseason.
Suns Keys to the Game:
- Relive the rivalry. At one point, the Suns-Mavericks matchups were prime-time television. Now, the Mavericks are chasing their 11th straight home win vs. the Suns.
- Be the spoiler. The Suns must recognize what’s at stake for the Mavericks. If Phoenix can pull off the upset, Dallas will in all likelihood miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
Mavericks Keys to the Game:
- Play with desperation. Dallas hasn’t reached the .500 mark since mid-December. The Mavericks need to play loose and like they have nothing to lose.
- Forget the standings. This team sees the writing on the wall. Dallas knows they are behind the Lakers and Utah Jazz for the last playoff spot. The Mavericks must focus solely on what they can control on the court. Otherwise, Dallas will be facing multiple adversaries at the same time, rather than a single opponent on the opposite side of the floor.
Matchup to Watch:
Luis Scola vs. Dirk Nowitzki. It will be interesting to see how Nowitzki fairs against the Suns’ low post players considering the he sat out the entire fourth against the Portland Trail Blazers. Unfortunately for Phoenix, the Dallas power forward had plenty of time to rest his sore foot since the Mavericks’ victory Sunday night.
“I’ll be fine,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got five games left and a huge chance to see .500 for the first time since probably December, so I’ll definitely play.”
O.J. Mayo. Simply put, the Mavericks win when he plays well. Mayo has played every game this season, so there’s a clear correlation between his stats and Dallas’ record. In their 39 losses, Mayo averaged 14 points and shot 40 percent from the field. In their 38 wins, Mayo averaged 18 points and shot nearly 50 percent from the field. Mayo has averaged nine points and shot 36 percent from the field in his last 10 games. The Suns will need Mayo’s struggles to continue if the team hopes to break its appalling losing streak.