Dec 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis (11) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Game 31 Preview: Dallas (17-13) @ Wolves (15-15)

Playoff implications abound, y’all! The Dallas Mavericks sit in the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings. Two games separate the ninth seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have a 11-6 record against teams below .500 while the Mavs are 12-4.

(If you’ve been paying attention up to this point, Wolves losses in Cleveland and Washington probably popped into your mind followed by Denver at Denver and at home.)

Dallas has lost three of five and is coming off a win in Chicago in which Monta Ellis led them in scoring with 22 and Shawn Marion led them in rebounding with 13.

Mavericks probable starting lineup:

PG Jose Calderon

SG Monta Ellis

SF Shawn Marion

PF Dirk Nowitzki

C DeJuan Blair

Dirk Nowitzki has shaken off whatever rust he had earlier in the season and averaged 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and just under 2 threes on over 51% shooting overall (42% from 3) over the last ten games.

Monta Ellis has averaged 19 points a game on 44.5% shooting with over 2 steals and under 6 assists a game over his last ten games.

Jose Calderon has been on fire of late, shooting 52% from the field and 52% from three over the last five games. Calderon missed the Wolves-Mavs game in Dallas November 30th due to an ankle injury.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Kevin Martin

SF Corey Brewer

PF Kevin Love

C Nikola Pekovic

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said earlier today Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are playing as well as any frontline in the history of the N.B.A. Downplaying your own team’s expectations by talking up your opponent is a hallmark of a good coach, but he’s not entirely wrong.

Pek is at 25 and 11 on 55% shooting over the last 5 games while Love is at 31 and 14 on 56% with almost 3 made threes a game over his last 5 games.

The Twitters said earlier today that Rony Turiaf is like a “wild horse” awaiting the word from the Wolves’ training staff to let him run free. Not to put a damper on those Pek-Love numbers, but each is logging over 35 minutes a night (Love is actually at 38) over the last 5 games.

If Turiaf can help lighten the load and help a second unit keep a fourth quarter lead — nevermind a second quarter lead — safe enough to rest the bash brothers or bruise brothers or whatever, then all the better.

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Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki Game Day Game Preview Jose Calderon Kevin Love Minnesota Timberwolves Monta Ellis Nikola Pekovic

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