Wednesday’s NBA action kept the Dallas Mavericks in line to finish third in the Western Conference, but changed the possible identity of their playoff opponent. The New Orleans Hornets moved into the sixth position, setting the stage—if only temporarily—for a Mavericks/Hornets first-round playoff tilt. Previously, the Portland Trail Blazers owned the sixth seed.
This development is an interesting one for Dallas, which has lost two of three to the Hornets this year. The teams meet again on the final night of the season, which may give Dallas a say in who it plays in the first round. If it happens that next Wednesday’s game determines the sixth seed in the West—and there’s no guarantee it will—then the Mavericks can use that information to decide how seriously to take the game. They went 2-2 against Portland this season and may prefer that matchup.
However, that analysis presupposes the Mavericks will finish with the third seed, which is not a given. The Oklahoma City Thunder stand just one game behind Dallas, and if the teams finish with identical records, then Oklahoma City will earn the higher seed by virtue of winning its division; the Mavericks’ 2-1 record head-to-head versus the Thunder would not come into play.
The Mavericks are slipping, having lost four in a row and five of their last 10 games. The Thunder, meanwhile, have gone 7-3 in the same span.