Extra Pass: Mavericks’ crucial home finale vs. Spurs

Published April 10, 2022, 6:00 PMMiguel Flores

The Mavericks (51-30) can clinch the third seed if they win against the Spurs and the Warriors (52-29) lose against the Pelicans.

Luka is playing

Tomorrow’s going to be a dense web of implications as wins and losses will affect seeding in the playoffs and play-in tournament.

The one matchup that's been on plenty of people’s radars lately is the Dallas Mavericks hosting the San Antonio Spurs. Yes, Luka Doncic is playing.

It seemed for a moment that Luka Magic would be in street clothes for this one after he incurred his 16th technical foul yesterday in their blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

A 16th tech would normally merit a one-game suspension in the regular season, but the league office rescinded the technical foul in question, allowing Luka to play in their season finale.

It would have been a shame for Luka to miss out on their final regular season home game under any circumstance, but this one would have stung more since the Mavs have a shot at the third seed in the Western Conference.

The Mavs currently sit at fourth with a 51-30 record, just one game behind the 52-29 Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, still without Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, will finish their regular season tomorrow in New Orleans, with tip-off right at the same time as the Dallas-San Antonio game (9:30 AM PHT).

The Mavs have made the playoffs for the last two seasons as lower seeds without home court advantage (though the 2020 Playoffs were played in the Disney Bubble). They’ve also lost in the first round in each of those seasons.

Some home cooking might finally push the Mavericks over the edge and into the second round. The third seed not only gives the better shot at having homecourt advantage in the following rounds after the first round, it also gives them a better matchup. They won two of three meetings against the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets, while they split their four games against the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz.

For the Dallas side, there’s a lot on the line. For the Spurs, it’s just about staying alive.

Spurs in the play-in

Whether or not legendary coach Gregg Popovich even considers getting the 2022 Spurs into the play-in tournament an achievement is a mystery. The winningest coach in league history probably has more accolades to be proud of.

But the 2022 Spurs really are a marvel. They’re young and way more erratic than the dynastic Spurs teams of the past, which probably makes them more fun (even with Argentinian Jordan Manu Ginobili factored in).

There’s a lot of Dejounte Murray, the Most Improved Player frontrunner and first-time All-Star, in Spurs games. He’s all over the place naturally because he handles the ball as the point guard and super-naturally because he’s everywhere on defense. 

For a while, it seemed Murray would never reach his potential after suffering an ACL tear that kept him out of the 2018-2019 season. But the 29th overall pick has proven he’s a lot like his predecessors in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – all underrated in the Draft that became polished in San Antonio’s rock-pounding system.

The play-in will forever be scrutinized for complicating the process of entering the playoffs middling and possibly widening the net for the stale mediocrity that drives fans away from the NBA. But at least it’s guaranteed a space for us to celebrate stories like the Spurs’ and Murray’s. 

Amidst all the teams just barely trying to win for the playoff money, there are teams that have been experimenting and trying new things. Making the play-in , at least, marks some of their progress.

Where to watch

You can watch Dallas-San Antonio tomorrow live on NBA League Pass at 9:30 AM. While you have this game on your phone, go ahead and tune in to Golden State-New Orleans game at the same time on NBA TV Philippines (via Smart GigaPlay or Cignal TV). Watch how this chapter of the NBA Playoffs unfolds.