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Golden Opportunity

For the Mavs, tonight it’s -- yawn -- game No. 81. For the Golden State Warriors, it’s the most important event in 13 years. In other words: Psst, hey, buddy, wanna buy a watch? No? OK then, how about I sell you a tip. After watching the Stars sleepwalk against the Canucks on KDFI-Channel 27 at 7 p.m. -- in five of the six meetings this season, the winning team needed just two goals -- turn over to KTXA-Channel 21 at 9:30 and take the Warriors, minus the points.

I know, seems crazy. But the Mavs have zero to play for. In fact, coach Avery Johnson will rest most of the starters and instead use Wednesday night’s finale in Seattle as his playoff dress rehearsal. The Warriors, conversely, have to win tonight and tomorrow night in Portland to clinch their first playoff berth since 1994.

Says Dirk Nowitzki, “Obviously, the game means more to them than it does to us.” Says Warriors forward Al Harrington, “We’re winning both of these games. There’s nothing else to talk about, no other options. I just can’t wait for Tuesday to get here.”

Add to that the fact that Golden State has somehow beaten Dallas twice this season and five of the last six times, and it sure smells like a lopsided scoreboard tonight. If you want the Mavs to cruise in their first-round playoff matchup, root for Dallas tonight and an opening pairing with the Los Angeles Clippers. But if you want entertaining basketball and delicious story lines -- Avery vs. Nellie, Cuban vs. Nellie; Li'l Nellie vs. Big Nellie -- hope Dallas mails it in. --Richie Whitt

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