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Mavericks vs. Suns preview: What does this game mean?

The seventh seed is all but locked in for Dallas, and the playoffs ARE a lock. What do they have to play for?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wait, why are we even here? Shouldn't we just shut everything down until the postseason?

In theory. First, there are still games left, so regardless of the standings, Dallas has to field a team. Secondarily, Dallas has looked like a model of inconsistency the second half of the year, so as many reps as possible might be a good thing for these woebegone Mavericks. The Suns are a heck of a test. They are in the lottery, but they've also frustrated the crap out of Dallas this season. A solid win against them might do wonders for the team's psyche. And the Suns are on the second night of a back-to-back, so they're ripe for a loss.

What should we focus on, considering a win or loss doesn't (much) matter?

Start with Monta Ellis and his shooting. Though his overall shooting numbers are right around season average, anyone who has watched Dallas these last few weeks has seen Ellis struggle from beyond the arc (the last time he hit a three was March 24th, he's 0-12 since) and from the free throw line. The 3-point shot is not something we really expect Ellis to hit, but his free throw woes are more than a little concerning. Next, see who Rick Carlisle brings off the bench. Playoffs usually see coaches shorten their rotations so expect someone to get trimmed from playing time. Personally, I think Dallas needs to let Charlie Villanueva ride the pine for the long haul and stick with Al-Farouq Aminu.

Do the Suns have anything to play for?

As a team? Not really. The Suns outplayed their expectations last year and came into this season with sky high hopes. Their reassembled roster didn't work out either and both Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic are no longer with the team. Every other member of their core, from the twins to P.J. Tucker, are signed to long contracts. Only Brandan Wright and Brandon Knight have anything to play for, since each is on the last year of their deal. Give a good look at Brandon Knight, as I expect the Dallas Mavericks front office to do the same this off-season.

How do you feel about Rajon Rondo having a historically bad free throw shooting season?

What? That has nothing to do with this game! Well, it does a little bit. The Mavericks are shooting 75.1 percent at the line as a team, which is good enough for 18th in the league. This is bad. For Dallas, a team that has a freaking free throw shooting coach, this is ridiculous. Some of these recent losses can be tied back into free throw shooting and it would be nice to see the Mavericks have a game where they actually hit above 80% as a team.

Game information

8:30 p.m. Central on ESPN