Two teams who have declared themselves champions in three of the last four seasons will battle it out Sunday afternoon, as the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers look to solidify ninth place in the Western Conference, as well as their respective playoff pushes.
Both of these teams are currently on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture is concerned. If this holds up, it will be the first time since 1993-94 that neither franchise was featured in postseason play.
The eighth-seeded Houston Rockets are currently three games up on the Lakers and four games up on the Mavs. But more importantly, the Rockets are only two games up on both teams in the all-important loss column, thus, the standings are a little misleading. The Rockets have played 58 games as opposed to the Lakers' 56 and Mavs' 54.
Dallas has gone 12-6 since falling to a rock-bottom 13-23. They are on a current stretch of five wins in six games, including a 4-1 homestand sandwiched around the All-Star break.
"We're gonna keep pushing, gonna keep fighting," Mavs' forward Dirk Nowitzki said.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are starting to get it together on their end, with Kobe Bryant recently saying that he has no doubt the Lakers will squeeze into the playoffs. He followed that prediction with a bold statement, saying when they make the playoffs, 'I have no fear in anyone.'
Nowitzki certainly agrees.
"They've had some issues — everybody's following them — but I still think they're so talented," Nowitzki said. "I still think they're going to make a run at it."
After Sunday afternoon's matchup, fans should have a clearer understanding of where their respective teams stand.
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