(Sports Network) - Dallas and New Orleans each know they are in the postseason but both clubs hope to improve their positioning when they close out the regular season in Big D on Wednesday.
The Mavericks put themselves in a position to earn the Western Conference's second seed by winning their third straight game on Monday, a 98-91 overtime win in Houston. Dallas will need some help, however, and must win tonight and hope the Los Angeles Lakers lose at Sacramento.
"We are trying to get the number two seed," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the triumph in Houston. "We have to play better than this if we want to get it."
The Mavericks could also fall all the way to fourth -- behind both the Lakers and Oklahoma City -- with a loss and a Thunder win Wednesday. Oklahoma City hosts Milwaukee.
"On the one hand, it's exciting, there's a possibility to move up if we keep winning and if the Lakers lose," Carlisle told the Mavericks' website. "On the other side of it, there's a lot of different possibilities. I've been in this position many times before, and very seldom does it look like you're locked into something."
Dirk Nowitzki finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Rockets while Shawn Marion and Jason Terry each posted 21 points for Dallas.
If the Mavericks finish in the No. 2 slot, they would play either the Hornets or Memphis, who are battling over the seventh seed. New Orleans and the Grizzlies are deadlocked but the Hornets own the tiebreaker and will earn the better spot with a win tonight or a Memphis loss to the LA Clippers.
The eighth seed may look a little better for New Orleans, however, since the team split four games with No. 1 San Antonio and went 0-4 versus the Lakers, the most likely option for the second slot.
Most recently, the Hornets fell to Utah on Monday when C.J. Miles and Devin Harris both scored 18 points to help the Jazz top New Orleans, 90-78, in the Big Easy.
Chris Paul finished with 15 points for the Hornets, who continue to toil without star forward David West and lost their second in a row.
"A lot of this falls on me," said Hornets head coach Monty Williams. "You have to get your team ready to play every night. It's not an 80-game season or whatever you want to call it. It's an 82-game season."
West is out for the season and underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn left ACL. The eight-year pro, who averaged team-high 18.9 points along with 7.6 rebounds in 70 games this season, sustained the injury while coming down from a dunk in the final minute of the fourth quarter of a 121-117 overtime victory over Utah back on March 24.
Dallas has lost nine consecutive games against fellow West playoff teams since beating the Lakers on Jan. 19 and has dropped two of three to the Hornets on the season.