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Mar 26, 2024 3:16 am

Mavs, Kings jockey for playoff position in key matchup

Luka Doncic

The highly coveted sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff race is on the line when the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings open a four-day, two-game series in the California capital on Tuesday night.

Both teams held their position in a sixth-place tie with wins on Monday. Dallas (42-29) opened a five-game trip with a 115-105 triumph over the Utah Jazz, before the Kings (42-29) tipped off a five-game homestand with a 108-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The teams will tip off two games behind the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, who are tied for fourth at 44-27, and a half-game ahead of the eighth-place Phoenix Suns (42-30).

The Kings need a win either Tuesday or in the rematch on Friday, which they also will host, in order to clinch the season series from the Mavericks. Sacramento posted earlier 129-113 and 120-115 wins at Dallas.

Only the top six finishers in the Western race are guaranteed playoff spots. Teams No. 7-10 in the final regular-season standings must earn entry into the final eight through the play-in tournament.

With a routine victory at Utah behind them, the Mavericks embark on an unusual schedule in the next four games. Not only do they get two days off in Sacramento to break up the doubleheader, but they then return to Texas to face the Houston Rockets on Sunday before retracing their flight path to Northern California to oppose the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

If anyone can handle a scheduling obstacle right now, veteran guard Kyrie Irving noted, it’s a Mavericks team on a four-game winning streak.

“It is something we don’t take for granted because it has taken time to build,” he said of the streak. “We’ve had to be patient. We’ve had to build through adversity and also some of our failures. That has been the beautiful aspect of it. Through our struggles, we’ve been able to come out on the other side and see some glimmer of the light and turn it into wins.”

Irving had 27 points in the triumph at Utah, while sidekick Luka Doncic registered 29 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists. The triple-double was his 19th of the season, six fewer than Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis, who notched his latest on Monday against Philadelphia (11 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists).

Doncic produced 28 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists in the most recent meeting with the Kings in January. He outscored Sabonis 53-49 in the two games.

Sabonis hasn’t had a triple-double against the Mavericks this season, but he did have a pair of double-doubles, contributing to his streak of 54 in a row that on Monday became the longest run in the NBA since 1976-77. Kevin Love held the previous mark for consecutive double-doubles in the same season during that time span with 53 in 2011.

“I feel like I have a lot of experience being in this game, and I’ve seen some things at the highest level and some of the greatest of the all-time greats,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “Tim Duncan, I’ve been fortunate, blessed, lucky, however you want to call it, to be around him for three straight years, and you’re talking about a record even a guy of that magnitude doesn’t have.”

A big difference in the Kings’ wins over Dallas was the play of De’Aaron Fox. He outscored Irving 30-23 in the November triumph, then poured in 34 while Irving was not in the lineup in the January rematch.

–Field Level Media

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