Tuesday night’s game between the Warriors and Mavericks was oddly important. Coming in, the Warriors were the West’s No. 10 seed but within range of the No. 6 Mavericks, just three games back in the loss column. A Warriors win would’ve closed the gap to two and given Golden State the tiebreaker.
Instead, the Mavs pulverized the Warriors, 133-103, stretching their lead over Golden State to four games in the loss column and sealing the tiebreaker via a 2-1 season-series advantage, which makes the standings gap an effective five games. Though not mathematically, that pretty realistically rules out Golden State fighting its way into the top six and out of the play-in round(s).
For the Mavericks, the win doesn’t ensure a top-six seed by any stretch, but it keeps them out of the play-in tournament for at least one more day. Had they lost to Golden State, the Mavericks would’ve fallen to No. 7 behind the Blazers, who blasted the Pacers 133-112 on Tuesday.
The win also keeps the Mavs within two games of the No. 5 Lakers. There’s a strong incentive for Dallas to catch the Lakers, as securing the No. 5 seed could very well mean a first-round matchup with the No. 4 Nuggets, who will be playing without Jamal Murray, rather than the No. 3 Clippers.
Luka Doncic was masterful on Tuesday, posting 39 points, eight assists and six rebounds on 15-of-23 shooting, including 4-of-10 from 3. The Mavericks took control during a 28-0 scoring run in the first half, which was tied for the second-longest run by any NBA team over the past 20 seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
They held the Warriors to just 12 first-quarter points and 29 first-half points and led by as many as 43 in the fourth quarter.
For the Warriors, not climbing up to the No. 6 seed might not be the worst thing in the world. Yes, they’ll have to win at least one play-in series, but if they get in the eight-team field, you could make an argument they’d rather play the No. 1 Jazz or No. 2 Suns than the No. 3 Clippers in the first round.
Problem is, the Warriors only lead the No. 11 Pelicans by three games in the loss column now, and the two teams still have three head-to-head games. Do the math, and the Pelicans control their own destiny to catch the Warriors if they sweep those games, which would also give them the tiebreaker.