Back where they expect to be in the playoff race, one might forgive the Dallas Mavericks for overlooking their next opponent given the series history and the matchup that follows.
With a huge game looming against another postseason hopeful, the Mavericks visit the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday seeking a season sweep and seventh straight win in the series.
Dallas and Utah hold matching 38-38 records for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, while Wednesday opponent Houston sits one game back.
A 2-10 slump threatened to knock the Mavericks out of the tight pack, but a three-game win streak and a 2-5 slump from the Rockets has jumbled the back end of the standings yet again.
Dallas closes the season with four games against current playoff teams - Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah and San Antonio - and may be missing some key pieces for the stretch run.
While Deron Williams (sports hernia) missed his fifth straight game Friday and Raymond Felton (groin strain) sat out, J.J. Barea ran the show and poured in 29 points in a 98-89 win at Detroit.
"We are where we need to be right now," Barea said. "We have six games left and we're focused. We're in a good rhythm, so hopefully we can finish strong."
Barea's offensive workload has increased with no timetable for Williams' return and Chandler Parsons (knee surgery) out until the second round of the playoffs at the earliest. Barea has averaged 20.3 points - nearly double his season average of 10.7 - on 52 percent shooting with 5.8 assists the last six games.
He will try to help the banged-up Mavericks to their seventh straight win in this series and a four-game sweep of the Timberwolves (25-51). Dallas has won three in a row in Minnesota and is 14-3 there in the last nine years.
While the Timberwolves are 13-25 at Target Center, the Mavs are 17-21 on the road.
Dirk Nowitzki dropped 29 points in this season's first matchup, but the Mavericks will have to make up for Parsons' production in the last two. He torched the Timberwolves for 59 points on 65.7 percent shooting, including 7 of 13 from long range.
The Mavericks' offensive numbers have taken a hit by failing to reach 100 points the last three games, but it's their defensive stinginess that has led to their surge. Dallas held Denver, New York and the Pistons to fewer than 90 points after allowing an average of 124 while losing four of five games previously.
Minnesota has struggled mightily to score in consecutive losses to the Clippers and Jazz, shooting 39.2 percent in losses of 99-79 on Wednesday and 98-85 on Friday.
Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points against Utah, and Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in 17 and 11 rebounds. Coach Sam Mitchell praised the effort of his players, two days after blasting them.
"Our guys played hard, I thought they competed," Mitchell said. "I thought we made some mental mistakes, but we didn't make shots and that team is long, so you are not going to get a lot of second shots."
Zach LaVine was red-hot in mid March, but he has made 1 of 15 shots for three points the last two games combined. Ricky Rubio is 4 of 17 from the floor in that time while averaging only 7.5 points and 5.0 assists.
The Timberwolves couldn't help the Mavericks with a win over the Jazz, but they still have games left against Portland, which holds the West's sixth spot, and the Rockets.