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Mavs = Hot; Lakers = Cold. Could It Happen?

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Okay, what'd I miss?

While in Vegas the Cowboys did exactly nothing in free agency, the Rangers got rained out here in Surprise, Arizona, one of my favorite restaurants burned to the ground and the Mavericks injected some madness into March by running off 11 consecutive games and tricking us into thinking they just might catch the slumping Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference's No. 1 seed.

Or are the Mavs for real? And is catching L.A. a genuine possiblity?

I wouldn't bet on it. With Erick Dampier out and Jason Terry out another two weeks and now Brendan Haywood hampered by a tight lower back, the Mavs just can't stay this hot. They're 11-1 since the Caron Butler trade, can win No. 12 in a row tonight against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves and over the weekend I could've sworn I even saw rookie Roddy Beaubois contributing 24 points.

The Mavs have the league's fourth-best record, trail L.A. by only three games and Dirk Nowitzki says this team is deeper - but not yet better - than the squad that made it to the 2006 NBA Finals. All that makes sense but, still, passing the Lakers is a long-shot.

I read in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that Kobe Bryant was ripping his team after consecutive losses and then yesterday he missed a potential game-tying jumper in a loss at Orlando. For the time being, L.A. appears human.

Dallas definitely has an easier schedule the final 18 games, but to catch the Lakers for the No. 1 seed it would have to go, oh, probably 15-3 while L.A. "stumbled" to a 12-6 finish. The top seed would ensure the Mavs home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but - as evidenced in 2007's first-round loss to Golden State - it would guarantee them nada.

I still say the goals should look thusly:

1. Get healthy entering the playoffs.

2. Get the No. 2 seed.

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