SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Dallas Maverick are in the middle of their longest road winning streak in three seasons. Head coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t care less.
More important to him, he said, are the four games — two on the road — that Dallas will play from now until April 16. The stakes are much bigger than any streak, he said, especially with the Mavericks trying to reach the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 seasons.
“We have four more one-game seasons,” Carlisle said after the Mavericks held off the Sacramento Kings 93-91 at Sleep Train Arena on Sunday, their fifth consecutive road victory. “That’s where it’s at. It’s an honor and a privilege to play a season like this.”
The Mavericks (47-31) enter those final four games with their playoff destination in their own hands after guard Monta Ellis’ 23-point effort and seven key points down the stretch helped Dallas remain in sole possession of seventh place in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Dallas led the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns by 1 1/2 games in the Western Conference before Sunday and trailed the sixth-place Golden State Warriors by one game for sixth after the win. The Grizzlies, Suns and Warriors all played Sunday night. The Warriors, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Suns are competing for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference.
“We’ve just got to keep fighting,” Ellis said. “It’s gonna be a battle these last few games. We knew this one was going to be a dogfight.”
Ellis helped Dallas prevail in it. He canned a 3-pointer to give Dallas an 87-82 lead with 3:04 left, then converted a layup while being fouled and made the free throw for a 90-84 lead. He also hit two free throws with 24.6 seconds left to help seal the win.
Kings forward Rudy Gay finished with a game-high 32 points and made two free throws with 8.5 seconds left to pull Sacramento within 92-91. After Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki converted only one of two free throws, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins missed a fadeaway baseline jumper at the final horn.
Gay scored at least 30 points for the ninth time since coming to the Kings from the Toronto Raptors in a seven-player trade in December, and he matched a career-high with eight assists. But the Kings were done in on the offensive boards. Dallas had a 16-6 advantage and totaled 17 second-chance points, making up for 40 percent shooting.
“You hold a very high-powered team to 93 points, 40 percent from the field, great defense,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Now with that defense comes the responsibility of finishing off the possession with a rebound. We did an awful job rebounding the ball.”
Cousins finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento, which needs to win one of its remaining five games to equal last season’s total. Cousins has recorded double-doubles in four straight games and has 49 this season, trailing only Minnesota forward Kevin Love (60) and Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (52).
Rookie guard Ray McCallum played all 48 minutes for Sacramento, totaling eight points, four rebounds, nine assists and three steals. He has played at least 43 minutes in seven straight games.
Forward Vince Carter scored 17 points for the Mavericks, while Nowitzki had 15 and guard Jose Calderon added 14. Carlisle also credited center DeJuan Blair after Blair finished with six points and nine rebounds and helped clog the middle in a Dallas zone that Carlisle used for long stretches of the second half after the Kings built a 54-45 lead early in the third quarter.
“He passed, he rebounded, he scored,” Ellis said. “He had a great game. It really gave us a lift.”
Blair played 17 minutes, his most in a month, after taking over for former Kings center Samuel Dalembert after Dalembert picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter.
“It ain’t nothing new to me, to have to stay ready and not worry about minutes,” Blair said. “It’s the story of my career.”
A victory over the Kings also has been the story of the Mavericks’ recent history. Dallas is 26-4 against Sacramento since April 2006 and 18-2 in the past 20 games the two teams have played. The one-sided matchup got a little closer this season, as Dallas won three of the four contests by combined total of nine points.
NOTES: G Isaiah Thomas sat out his seventh straight game for Sacramento with a bruised quadriceps muscle. Thomas played in every one of the Kings’ first 70 contests, averaging 20.7 points and 6.4 assists in 35 minutes per game. The team is undecided on whether he will sit out the rest of the season. … Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki, who passed F Dominique Wilkins for 11th on the scoring list Friday, next can pass G Oscar Robertson for 10th. Nowitzki, who is 17 points shy of Robertson, has passed G Reggie Miller, F Kevin Garnett, F Alex English, G John Havlicek and Wilkins on the scoring list this season. … Kings C DeMarcus Cousins needs 42 points in the final five games to pass Brad Miller for ninth on Sacramento’s all-time scoring list and 101 to pass Vlade Divac for eighth. … The Mavericks will finish with a winning record on the road for the ninth time in the franchise’s 34-year history. All of them have come during Nowitzki’s 16-year career. … Former Kings G Peja Stojakovic was in attendance and received a standing ovation from the Sleep Train Arena crowd.
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