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Mavs head to Sacramento looking to stay alive in playoff race

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After giving the Warriors a serious scare without the help of Dirk or Deron Williams, the Mavs will try to get an actual win against the Kings.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks face the Sacramento Kings on a day's rest after managing to play the Golden State Warriors very closely even while resting Dirk and missing Deron Williams. With most of the remaining games must-wins for Dallas if they're looking to make the playoffs, this could give the team the physical and mental boosts they need to get a win over the Kings.

What happened last time these two teams played?

The Mavericks hosted the Kings earlier this month. The game was supposed to give the Mavericks a bit of a cushion before they entered a particularly tough stretch in their scheduled later in the month, but was instead the Rajon Rondo revenge game. The former Mav put up 18 points and 12 assists, which combined with DeMarcus Cousins' double-double to beat Dallas despite Chandler Parsons' 28.

The teams have played a total of three games this season, and Sacramento has the 2-1 edge.

What have the Kings done lately?

Despite seeming to have the Mavericks' number this year, the Kings are struggling. They're seven games behind Dallas and Utah for the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, and while they haven't been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it's incredibly unlikely to happen.

The Kings have also been plagued by some off-court drama this season, with tensions running high between Cousins head coach George Karl.

Why is this a must-win game?

It's not so much that this particular game is a must win as that the Mavericks have a razor-thin margin between making and not making the playoffs this year and not that many games left to play. Right now, just a game and a half separates number six Portland from number nine Utah. The Mavericks are currently tied with Utah, but the tiebreaker gives them the eight seed (though that may change).

Dirk is expected to play tonight, but Deron Williams is still out. He's undergoing an MRI because of an abdominal strain.

How to watch

Early tip-off alert: tonight's game starts at 5:00 p.m. Central. As usual, you can watch on Fox Sports Southwest or via NBA League Pass.