OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -The Dallas Mavericks rested Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Howard on Tuesday night, keeping three top contributors to the NBA's best team out of the lineup against the Golden State Warriors.
Nowitzki and Stackhouse were deactivated, while Howard wasn't expected to dress for the game. Center Erick Dampier, who's nursing a strained right shoulder, also was sidelined.
Coach Avery Johnson's decision to rest two All-Stars and his top reserve greatly improved the Warriors' chances for their fifth straight victory over Dallas. It also helped Golden State's hopes of clinching a playoff spot - and a probable first-round rematch with the Mavericks - over the regular season's final two games.
The Warriors began the night one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's final postseason spot. If Golden State beat Dallas and the Clippers lost to Phoenix on Tuesday night, the Warriors would clinch their first playoff berth since 1994 - when Johnson was Golden State's starting point guard.
Stackhouse agreed with Johnson's decision to gather strength for the playoff run ahead. All four resting Mavericks are expected to play in Wednesday's season finale at Seattle.
``We're trying to accomplish something we came up a little short on last year,'' Stackhouse said. ``If we were playing Seattle (Tuesday night) and the Warriors tomorrow, it could have just as easily been the other way around.''
Only eight teams in NBA history have won more games than the Mavericks, whose 66 victories entering Tuesday night's game are a franchise best and the most in the league since the Los Angeles Lakers won 67 in 1999-00.
Dallas wrapped up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs 10 days ago, and Johnson already rested Nowitzki and Stackhouse in a game against Minnesota. The Mavs clearly don't need much more practice before embarking on an effort to improve on last season's six-game loss to Miami in the NBA finals.
And Johnson's decision showed the Mavericks obviously aren't shaking with fear over a potential playoff meeting with the Warriors, who have been among the few NBA clubs with consistent success against Dallas over the last few years. Golden State coach Don Nelson led the Mavericks' ascendance until Johnson replaced him in March 2005.
``We have to take note of the fact that we haven't had much success against this team for a couple of years,'' Stackhouse said. ``But all good things must come to an end, and hopefully that will happen for us.''

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