The Mavs Are Moving Up

Something has clicked for the Dallas Mavericks.

Maybe it's first-year coach Rick Carlisle figuring out his squad. Maybe it's Josh Howard learning to play on his aching ankle. Or maybe it's savvy vets Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki getting cranked up just in time for the playoffs.

Or maybe it's all of those things.

Regardless, the Mavs sure have stirred up the bottom of the NBA Western Conference playoff race.

With only four games left, there's no telling whether Dallas, Utah or New Orleans will be stuck with the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavs have spent the last month and a half in that dreaded spot. But high-scoring, runaway victories over Phoenix and Utah have lifted them into a tie with the Jazz for No. 7. The Hornets are No. 6, but are only a game ahead of the Mavs going into a home-and-home series tonight in Dallas, then in New Orleans on Sunday.

If the Mavs sweep Chris Paul and the Hornets, they'll be a game up on New Orleans with only two games left. If they follow that by winning their last two regular-season games, they wouldn't have to face Bryant and the Lakers until the conference finals -- if they get that far.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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