Delivering The Final Shot

The Golden State Warriors ended the Dallas Mavericks' season last spring, becoming the first No. 8 seed to beat a top-seeded team in a best-of-seven playoff series. Though the stakes aren't quite as high when the teams meet Sunday, the Warriors have a shot at delivering another blow to the stumbling Mavericks.

The Warriors look to catch up to the Mavericks in the crowded Western Conference playoff race as the teams square off at Oracle Arena for the first of two meetings in four days.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Golden State -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 221 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 88% of bets for this game have been placed on Golden State -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Dallas (45-27) has a tenuous grip on the seventh spot in the West, just one game ahead of ninth-place Golden State (44-28). Denver, which is idle Sunday, holds the eighth spot. Despite the fact that each of those teams has a winning percentage greater than .600, one will likely be left out of the playoffs as the ninth-place team in the conference.

If the Warriors win this game, it will result in a three-way tie for seventh place. If the Mavericks win, they'll pull one game ahead of the eighth-place Nuggets and two ahead of the ninth-place Warriors. Each of the three teams has nine games remaining after Sunday.

The Mavericks haven't helped their playoff chances by losing four of their last five games, including a 118-105 defeat at Denver on Thursday night.

"It is what it is," Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse told the Mavericks' official Web site. "We just have to keep playing and worry about the next game. This one is over. If it comes down to the last game and the tiebreaker (with Denver), we can only look at ourselves."

Thursday's defeat was Dallas' second full game without All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who suffered knee and ankle injuries in an awkward fall during an 88-81 loss to San Antonio on Sunday. Last season's league MVP is expected to need as much as two weeks to recover.

That doesn't bode well for Dallas, which has lost two of three games this season without its leading scorer and rebounder and split the two games since Nowitzki went down Sunday.

Nowitzki's injury could be great news for Golden State, but the Warriors have so far failed to take advantage of the Mavericks' struggles by alternating wins and losses over the last two weeks.

Like Dallas, Golden State is coming off a damaging loss to Denver. The Warriors were outscored 15-0 in a crucial five-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters in their 119-112 defeat Saturday.

"It doesn't get any easier for us," said Warriors coach Don Nelson, whose team follows this game with a four-game road trip, which includes visits to San Antonio and New Orleans as well as the season series finale against Dallas on Wednesday.

"This is going to tell who we are as a team, whether we are capable or not," Warriors point guard Baron Davis said.

Golden State has lost consecutive games just once since its 0-6 start, falling at Dallas on Jan. 2 and at home against New Orleans on Jan. 4.

In addition to that Jan. 2 win, the Mavericks beat the Warriors 120-115 on Nov. 8 to snap their six-game skid at Oracle Arena. Dallas had dropped nine of 11 games overall against Golden State before this season, including four of six in last year's playoffs.

To avoid revisiting their struggles against the Warriors, the Mavericks will likely need Josh Howard to continue to shoulder much of the offensive load. Howard, averaging a career-high 19.7 points, has scored 31.0 per game since Nowitzki's injury. He had 30 points and went 12-for-24 from the field Thursday.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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