The New York Knicks have managed to tread water in the Eastern Conference playoff race over the last month by succeeding against fellow sub-.500 teams.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks will get another chance to reach the break-even mark - this time by opposing a team that's recently left its sub-.500 days in the past.
When the Knicks face the surging Dallas Mavericks at home, in the first game between the teams this season, both will be coming off double-digit wins at home.
RJ Barrett scored 31 points Monday night as New York pulled away in a 111-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavericks extended their winning streak to a season-long six games Sunday by beating the visiting Chicago Bulls 113-99.
The Knicks' win over the Spurs capped a stretch of nine straight games against sub-.500 teams dating back to Christmas Day. New York went 6-3 in the run to improve to 20-21 and move into a tie for 10th place in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks haven't been at .500 since improving to 12-12 following a 121-109 win over the Spurs on Dec. 7. New York has lost its last three games with a chance to get back to .500, most recently on Saturday, when the Celtics cruised to a 99-75 win at Boston.
"Look, there's going to be ups and downs throughout the course of the year," Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You've got to be mentally tough when you face adversity - everybody does. Probably the most important thing in life. Sometimes it goes our way, sometimes it doesn't. Just navigate through it all."
The Mavericks' six-game winning streak - their longest since a pair of six-game runs during the 2015-16 season - has lifted them over .500 at 22-18 and into fifth place in the Western Conference.
Dallas hasn't won at least seven straight games since an eight-game streak Feb. 2-Mar. 4, 2011, a season that ended with the franchise winning its lone NBA title. The also had 10- and 12-game winning streaks during that regular season.
It might be a bit early to start planning a parade route, but the Mavericks have looked like a legitimate playoff team by posting an average margin of victory of 15.7 points during the streak. They also defeated a pair of NBA Finals contenders in the Bulls and Golden State Warriors. Dallas ended Chicago's nine-game winning streak Sunday.
Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic fueled the win Sunday when he returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury and posted his third triple-double of the season (22 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists) as the Mavericks held an opponent under 100 points for the fifth time in the winning streak.
"It feels amazing," Doncic said. "I think the whole team is playing together and we are playing great defense."
The Mavericks played Sunday with assistant coach Sean Sweeney serving as head coach in place of Jason Kidd, who has missed the last two games while in the NBA's health and safety protocol.
Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis (COVID-19 protocol) and Willie Cauley-Stein (personal reasons) are not available Wednesday.
--Field Level Media