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'Breathing Down Their Necks': Mavs Battle Jazz; Home-Court Within Reach

With the NBA playoffs on the horizon, the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz meet once more in what could be a first-round preview.

When the Dallas Mavericks fell to 15-17 after a 120-116 loss to the Utah Jazz on Christmas Day, nobody would've ever thought that Dallas would eventually be breathing down Utah's neck in the Western Conference standings with just 18 games remaining… and yet, here we are.

Luka Doncic vs. Jazz
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"Around Christmas time," said former Mavs big man Kristaps Porzingis confidently in early-December. "After Christmas is really when we're going to take off." 

To Porzingis' credit, he was right on the money, although ultimately got traded to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans in the process.

The Mavs (39-25) are playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time with the NBA playoffs on the horizon. Dallas has won nine of its last 11 games dating back to Feb. 4. What’s probably even more impressive is the Mavs having a 23-7 record since New Year’s Eve.

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With another head-to-head matchup against Utah at American Airlines Center on Monday night, Dallas is just one game behind the fourth-seeded Jazz in the West playoff standings. Currently, Utah holds a 2-0 regular season advantage over Dallas with two more meetings to go.

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Although there are a handful of teams the Mavs could potentially play in a first-round series — including the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets — a matchup with the Jazz is among those scenarios. If Dallas really wants to test its playoff readiness, it should treat this game with Utah as Game 3 of a series while trying to avoid going in an 0-3 hole.

In Dallas’ most-recent game with Utah a little more than a week ago, the Jazz pulled away with a 114-109 win while Rudy Gobert stifled Luka Doncic down the stretch. Can the Mavs get over the hump and beat the Jazz for the first time this season, especially given that Utah will be on a second night of a back-to-back? Whether it happens or not, one thing is already a given — the Mavs have put themselves in a great position to control their own destiny.

Stay tuned to DallasBasketball.com all day on Monday for Mavs Gameday coverage.