Programming note: Mavericks-Warriors coverage tips off Tuesday at 5 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Channel locations)
April hits hard and fast for the Warriors, with two games in two cities, on back-to-back nights, against playoff-caliber teams – a gauntlet of fire that could decide how or if they will be admitted into the postseason.
And they're trying to pass this test without starting center Andrew Bogut, who will be watching from his San Francisco living room, and starting power forward David Lee, who barring a miracle recovery will be cheering from the bench.
That's what the Warriors (45-28) are up against Tuesday night in Dallas (44-30) and again on Wednesday night in San Antonio.
“Every game is important for us,” coach Mark Jackson said. “Two tough teams, two talented teams and two teams playing for something.”
While the Spurs have separated themselves from the rest of the Western Conference, the Warriors and Mavericks are among five teams – the Blazers, Suns and Grizzlies are the others – battling for the last four spots in the playoffs.
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It's tight enough that a Warriors win would give them the season series victory over Dallas, a significant advantage in the tie-breaking procedure.
The Mavericks, however, are the kind of dangerous team that can fire up the inconsistent Warriors. Aside from the Spurs and Lakers, no team in the west has been a more consistent winner during this century.
“They're a team with a superstar player in Dirk (Nowitzki) and amazing people still playing at a high level,” Jackson said. “They create matchup problems. (Samuel) Dalembert is a guy who has been huge for them lately, impacting games on the boards, blocking shots. They throw different guys at you.
“We're going to have to impose our will on them on the defensive end, and then offensively, we've got to make sure to take care of the basketball.”
They'll see their old friend Monta Ellis for the last time this season. Monta has rebounded nicely after playing beneath his standards last season in Milwaukee.
Most of all, though, the Warriors will have to maintain focus on Tuesday without peeking ahead to Wednesday. A split would make the trip a success, but that means winning at least one. The Mavericks are less imposing, but more desperate, than the Spurs.
“You really want to go in there with the goal of getting two wins,” Klay Thompson said. “I think this could be good for us to get our swag back.”
Thompson's sidekick, point guard Stephen Curry avoided the use of “swag,” opting for another word that, in this instance, is synonymous.
“We've got to get our mojo back for Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.
The Warriors may be able to do that Tuesday at American Airlines Center, if they don't get too far ahead of themselves.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Draymond Green vs. Nowitzki. Jackson did not name his frontcourt starters, but Green will be a key defender on Dirk. He's eager, scrappy and fundamentally sound. If Green can't contain Dirk, the Warriors are in trouble.
Thompson vs. Ellis. Klay typically draws the most threatening opposing guard, so he'll spend plenty of time chasing Monta, who has been fairly consistent but has had few gigantic scoring nights, reaching 30 or more points only four times this season.
Jermaine O'Neal vs. Dalembert. With the Warriors so thin up front, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle will attack the paint. Big Sam, who has scored in double figures in three of the last four games, will be part of the plan.
INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, PF David Lee (strained right hamstring) is doubtful. C Andrew Bogut (pelvis/groin contusion) and C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery rehab) are out.
The Mavericks report no injuries.