ATLANTA -- With their minds squarely on the playoffs and on successfully defending their NBA title, it should come as no surprise that the Dallas Mavericks lost Thursday's game to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, 106-89.
After all, of the two teams, the Hawks had the most incentive entering this game.
The victory enabled the Hawks (40-26) to outfox Boston and grab the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Mavs finished the regular season with a 36-30 record and will open the playoffs Saturday at Oklahoma City.
Except for briefly in the third quarter when they sliced a 23-point deficit to 60-49, the Mavs were really never in Thursday's game. At times, it was as if they were going through the motions knowing that this game meant absolutely nothing to them other than pride.
The Hawks used a blistering 21-5 run to go up 31-11 with 2:57 remaining in the first period. Atlanta's lead grew to 36-13 late in the first quarter, and the Mavs never got closer than 11 points the duration of the game.
The Hawks, in fact, were able to push the lead back up to 104-78 with 3:58 to go in the game following a basket by former Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 22 points in 26 minutes on 7-of-12 shooting. He also had a breif scare in the second period when he drove the lane and ran into Hawks' forward Ivan Johnson.
Nowitzki went sprawling to the floor, and came up clutching his left wrist and probably skipping the heartbeats of numerous Mavs' fans across the world. But Nowitzki stayed in the game and didn't seem to favor the wrist any more.
In addition for the Mavs, Rodrigue Beaubois scored 13 points, Jason Terry played 26 minutes and tallied 11 points.
Point guard Jason Kidd didn't play for the second game in a row and will now have a week off before the Mavs play Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against Oklahoma City.
In all, after starting the season 20-11 following an 82-75 win at Philadelphia on Feb. 17, the Mavs were just 16-19 the rest of the season. That includes a paltry 13-20 record on the road.
If the Mavs plan on getting out of the first round of the playoffs, they have to win at least one game in Oklahoma City.
-- Dwain Price
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