The Dallas Mavericks are clinging to faint playoff hopes and will try to improve their situation on Tuesday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Mavs trail the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers by three games with just 20 games remaining on the schedule. At stake is a 13th consecutive trip to the postseason.
"Staying in the present has got to be what it's about for us," head coach Rick Carlisle said after practice on Monday. "We control our situation with our games. Beyond that, you know, what other teams do, who's beating who, none of that can be our concern right now. We've got to really just dial in on doing what we can to win games and try to get to the hump. And when we get to it, then we've got to try and get over it."
The Mavs have won three in a row, including the first two on a crucial four- game road trip. They won in Detroit and in Minnesota, but still have the Bucks and San Antonio Spurs to go.
On Sunday, the Mavs pummeled the Timberwolves, 100-77. The 77 points Minnesota managed was a low for a Dallas opponent since a Dec. 1 victory over the Pistons.
With Shawn Marion out a second straight game with a left calf contusion, the bench was awesome for the Mavericks against Minnesota. Vince Carter led all scorers with 22, but Brandan Wright and Elton Brand both scored in double figures as the reserves chipped in 49 points.
Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points and was the only Mavs starter in double digits.
Marion is listed as day-to-day.
The Bucks don't have the same playoff worries as Dallas does. Milwaukee is 8 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, but it's not like the Bucks don't have anything to play for. They only trail the Chicago Bulls by two games for the fourth seed in the East.
The Bucks are playing well with consecutive wins, both on the road, and both out west. They knocked off the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, then edged the Sacramento Kings, 115-113 on Sunday.
Milwaukee beat the Kings without Larry Sanders, J.J. Redick and Ersan Ilyasova, who all missed the game with injuries and are all listed as questionable against the Mavs.
Monta Ellis made two late free-throws to preserve the win against Sacramento although the Bucks let a 15-point fourth-quarter lead nearly evaporate.
Ellis led the Bucks with 29 points and nine assists. Brandon Jennings and Mike Dunleavy added 16 apiece and Gustavo Ayon, Samuel Dalembert and Ekpe Udoh also scored in double figures for Milwaukee.
The Bucks defeated the Mavs in Dallas this season, 95-90, on Feb. 26. Milwaukee has taken three of four from the Mavericks, who have lost 18 of their last 22 in Brew City.