Mavericks aim to extend winning streak in matchup vs. Pistons

The Dallas Mavericks hope to keep their slim hopes alive of earning the No. 4 seed for the Western Conference playoffs when they host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

With five wins in a row and 12 victories in their past 13 games, the Mavericks (50-30) have moved within one game of the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers (51-29) with just two contests remaining.

Los Angeles will host the Utah Jazz later Friday before wrapping up the regular season Sunday at home against the Houston Rockets. The Mavericks also will finish on Sunday, at Oklahoma City.

The Mavericks have lost the season series to the Clippers, so Dallas would have to win its final two games and Los Angeles would need to lose its last two in order for the Mavericks to overtake the Clippers.

Dallas will look for a season-series sweep of the Pistons, having won 142-124 in Detroit on March 9. Luka Doncic collected 39 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the win.

With only the remote chance of the Clippers losing to both the Jazz and Rockets, it’s possible Doncic and star sidekick Kyrie Irving will be given Friday off.

The Mavericks are coming off a 111-92 win at Miami on Wednesday in a game that was highlighted by special T-shirts worn during warm-ups by Dallas players. They read, “Pravi MVP,” a campaign for recognition for Doncic in his attempt to win his first NBA Most Valuable Player award.

“We were trying to wear them during the game, but they didn’t let us,” teammate P.J. Washington noted. “But everybody was excited to have his shirt for sure. Credit to Luka for the season he’s had. He’s a special player, and I’m just excited to be able to play with him and watch his greatness each and every night. He’s the real MVP.”

Cade Cunningham countered with 33 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ loss to the Mavericks last month. Detroit followed that defeat with wins over the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors but since have lost 14 of 15 games — including 127-105 in its home finale Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls.

The setback assured the Pistons (13-67) of no better than a tie for the worst record in the NBA this season. One more loss — they will finish at San Antonio on Sunday — or a win by the Washington Wizards either at home Friday night against the Bulls or Sunday at Boston would clinch the distinction for Detroit.

Cunningham sat out the home finale as he continues knee management following surgery last year. He has sat out five straight games, but the Pistons have indicated they’d like him to play at least once before season’s end.

With or without Cunningham, Marcus Sasser assured that the Pistons would like nothing better than to fly home from Texas with another win or two under their belts.

“We have to finish out the season,” Sasser noted. “We’re trying to keep high spirits.”

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