Mavericks Begin Second Half Against Phoenix

Luka Doncic | Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks return from the All-Star break on Thursday night amid a six-game winning streak that has pushed the team up the standings in the Western Conference playoff race.

Dallas will look to extend its winning streak into the season’s second half as it enters a 13-game stretch that features 11 opponents currently in the NBA playoff (or play-in) field.

“We’re just happy to start this thing back up,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. told the media after Wednesday’s practice. “We know we’ve got a tough stretch to start right after the break, and it’s going to be a great test for us.”

The Mavericks’ first game of the “second half ” (it’s not exactly half but is referred to as such because it follows All-Star Weekend) provides an excellent opportunity for the team to continue its climb in the standings, facing the Phoenix Suns, who are just one game ahead of Dallas entering the night.

“We’ve got to approach it as if we’re not in the playoffs right now,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. told the media after Wednesday’s practice. “We’re only in the play-in, with the standings and how it is right now, so we’ve got to get into the top six, and it starts tomorrow. We’ve got to go out there and compete.”

Dallas has played Phoenix twice so far this season, winning the first matchup on Christmas Day in Phoenix and losing at home about a month later, and Thursday will be the final game between the franchises.

“It’s one of 82,” head coach Jason Kidd told the media on Wednesday. “It’s one after the break. We’ll play it, and we’ll see how we finish up. We can learn from winning, and we can learn from losing. … We know how important this game is. All the games are important, but it’s not the end of the season if we don’t get the W.”

The Mavericks are also getting healthy down the stretch, as guard Dante Exum nears a return, and Kidd told reporters things looked great on the injury front as a whole.

“It’s great to have everyone out there,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “Everyone’s excited, the energy is high, and it’s great to have everyone healthy.”

The mood around the team has become increasingly optimistic, and Hardaway Jr. believes the team has found its groove after the additions of P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline.

“I think we’re starting to find our niche a little bit with the new guys,” he explained. “They came in, gave us a spark, and had a good couple days of practice.”

Gafford and Washington have impacted the team with great defense and athleticism, allowing Dallas to play a little more freely and push the ball up and down the court with greater tempo. We’ll see if they can continue to excel on Thursday.

The Mavericks (32-23) and the Suns (33-22) will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CT at the American Airlines Center.

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