The Dallas Mavericks are headed to the NBA playoffs for the twelfth consecutive season.
Heading into Wednesday night, their “magic number” to clench a spot in the post-season was two.
Thursday night, with the Mavericks resting, they got their wish when the New Orleans Hornets defeated Houston in overtime, sending the Mavs once again to the playoffs.
Currently, with three games remaining in the regular season, Dallas is the sixth seed in the Western Conference, three games behind the Memphis Grizzlies (Grizzlies hold head-to-head tie-breaker over the Mavs) and a half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets.
Though they are certainly not expected to do so, if the reigning NBA Champions hope to repeat, they are going to have an incredibly difficult road ahead of them.
If the season ended today, the Mavericks would face the Los Angeles Lakers (40-23) in the first round. The Lakers are certainly beatable this year, but Dallas has had trouble with them all season, most recently falling to them in overtime with Kobe Bryant sitting out with an injury.
However, these two seeds are anything but set.
The Los Angeles Clippers are just one game behind the Lakers, and again, the Mavs are not locked into the 6th position.
If Dallas drops to the 7th or even 8th seed, there is also the possibility that they could face off against the young and athletic Oklahoma City Thunder, or the older but more experienced San Antonio Spurs.
Dallas has three games remaining on the schedule: they play their final home game tonight against the Golden State Warriors, then head to Chicago to square off against the Bulls, and after four days rest meet the Atlanta Hawks in their last regular season game.
It could be a few days before it is determined which team will the Mavericks will begin their playoff run against, but one thing is for certain now; the Mavericks will indeed be playing this postseason, preparing to defend their NBA crown, as difficult as that may be.