Somehow, someway, the Dallas Mavericks are very much alive for the postseason with just nine games remaining in the regular season.
After their dramatic win over the Bulls on March 30th, the Mavs have just April remaining on their regular-season calendar.
If the Mavericks are going to surpass the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz for the West's final playoff spot, they will need to have success in April like they had in March, a month in which they went 10-5.
Although the Mavericks have just nine games scheduled in the month of April, every matchup will be key for them if they want to keep the franchise's streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances going strong. Here are the five most important of those matchups.
After a six-game homestand in which it went 4-2, Dallas starts off the month of April with a four-game road trip that will test its ability to win important games away from the American Airlines Center.
At the tail end of that road trip, Dallas will head to Portland to take on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
While the attention has been on the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas and the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot, the Blazers are still very much alive.
Going into Saturday, Portland was 11th in the conference and three-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot.
The last time the Mavericks played at Portland on January 29th, they were defeated by a buzzer-beating shot by LaMarcus Aldridge, so along with the playoff implications, revenge will be on the Mavericks' minds in this game.
Dallas can't afford to drop games at all in the final month of the season, much less against other teams in the playoff mix.
Although the game against the Blazers doesn't carry as much weight as games against teams already in the playoffs, it is a must-win for Dallas and should be entertaining as both teams eye a playoff bid.
The Dallas Mavericks have the luxury of being able to play their final two games of the regular season at home, an advantage they have over the Utah Jazz, who play their final two games on the road. The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, end their season with a three-game homestand.
Unfortunately for Dallas fans, first of those matchups won't be a cakewalk. The Mavs will have to take on a tough Memphis Grizzlies team that has already beaten them two out of three times this season.
The Grizzlies are strong up front and rebound the ball very well, which are areas Dallas struggles in.
Also, if you think that Memphis is going to take it easy on the Mavs because the Grizzlies are already locked into the playoffs, think again. They will be fighting for seeding and potential home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
As of March 30th, Memphis is a half-game out of the fourth spot held by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dallas will have to take advantage of the fact that it ends the season at home, but playing against Memphis will not be an easy win by any means.
The Dallas Mavericks can only hope that their date with the New Orleans Hornets on April 17th is worth watching.
If it is, it will be because the Mavericks are still in contention for a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.
The Mavericks could be in a win-and-you're-in situation on that final day, or they may need a win and help from others. But the reason this is a game to watch is not because of the quality of their opponent, but because it could be the game that finally gets the Mavericks into the playoffs once and for all.
Dallas plays two of its final three games against the Hornets in a home and home, sandwiched between the aforementioned meeting with Memphis.
While this bodes well because Dallas is clearly the superior team, New Orleans isn't going to just lie down and will embrace playing the role of spoiler against its division rival.
Although the Mavericks will be favored in this game, they will have to play their best basketball if they want to ensure a win and potentially a playoff berth.
The Dallas Mavericks will have to match up twice in the final month with one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now: the Denver Nuggets.
Denver is 17-3 in its last 20 games and has already beaten the Mavericks once this season in their only game.
Dallas will have to contend with the deep, high-powered Denver offense that is sure to give teams fits in the playoffs.
While their first matchup is on April 4th they also play them at home on April 12th in the second of back-to-back home games the Mavs will play in the middle of the month.
Both games are tremendously important to the Mavericks' season. Dallas will have to win at least one to feel good about their postseason chances.
In the April 4th contest, Dallas could go back over .500 for the first time since December 10th if it can beat the Lakers in the game before that.
In the April 12th matchup, Dallas can potentially continue or spark a winning streak, since the two opponents prior and the one after are all teams not currently in the playoff mix.
The Dallas Mavericks' most exciting game to watch in April will be the first one they play.
The Mavs' only game versus a team they are directly competing with for the eighth spot will come this upcoming Tuesday when they travel to the Staples Center to face the Lakers.
Los Angeles is 2-1 against the Mavericks this season, but none of its previous three meetings will be as important as this one.
Depending on the results of the Lakers game against Sacramento, and the Jazz's next two games, this contest could actually put the Mavericks into the eighth spot for the first time since December.
A loss, on the other hand, will almost destroy any momentum Dallas had after beating Chicago and going 4-2 on their homestand, and it will put the Mavericks firmly behind the eight ball if they want to sneak into the playoffs.
Beating the Lakers in LA is no easy task, but the Mavericks have already done it once and will need to do so again to stay in the hunt for that highly coveted eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.