OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The Golden State Warriors ruined Dallas' season a year ago by knocking the Mavericks out of the playoffs in a shocking first-round upset. This year, the Warriors could keep the Mavericks out of the postseason all together.
Monta Ellis scored 30 points and Kelenna Azubuike hit two clutch shots down the stretch to help the Warriors beat the Mavericks 114-104 Sunday night to create a three-way tie with Dallas and Denver for seventh place in the ultracompetitive Western Conference.
"I got my own problems," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "I feel for them, but my bucket is full as well."
With nine games remaining, Dallas, Golden State and Denver are all even at 45-28. If the season ended today, the Warriors would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs because they have lost two of three to both the Nuggets and Mavericks. But if Golden State manages to beat Denver and Dallas in their final meetings, the Mavericks would be the odd team out in a three-way tie.
That's quite a fall for a team that made it to the NBA finals in 2006, won a league-best 67 games in the regular season a year ago before losing to Golden State, and traded for Jason Kidd this season.
"I'm not excited for us," coach Avery Johnson said. "We'd like to be third or fourth. "We don't want to be part of this three team, seventh seed or eighth seed or whatever."
With star forward Dirk Nowitzki sidelined with knee and ankle injuries, the Mavericks could have a tough time making a drive for a playoff spot. Dallas fell to 1-2 without Nowitzki, with the two losses coming to Denver and Golden State.
The Mavs travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Monday night before returning home to host the Warriors on Wednesday.
"With Dirk or without Dirk, it's going to be tough," Kidd said. "With the West, there are no nights off, you've got to play your best game each night and everybody's fighting not just for the playoffs but for seeding. One game can move you up or down so this is what basketball is all about. You want to be in a competitive situation and I'm right in the middle of it."
The Warriors, who fell into ninth place for the first time since Feb. 22 with a loss Saturday at Denver, rebounded against the Mavericks after falling behind by 12 points in the opening minutes.
Now Golden State heads out on a four-game road trip beginning Tuesday in San Antonio that will be crucial to its playoff hopes.
"If we're going to be a playoff team then we need to treat these next nine games like the playoffs," Baron Davis said.
Golden State built a 14-point lead in the third quarter but led by only four late in the fourth quarter. That's when Azubuike hit a 3-pointer to make it 105-98 with less than 4 minutes left and waved his arms to the cheering crowd. He added a jumper to make it 109-100 with 2:27 to go and Golden State went on to its 17th comeback win from a double-digit deficit.
Davis added 21 points, Stephen Jackson had 16 and Andris Biedrins had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Azubuike scored 15 off the bench as Golden State avoided losing consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 2-4.
"We don't want to count on anybody else," Warriors forward Matt Barnes said. "I think if we take care of our business and win the games we're supposed to win, we'll get in. We don't want it to come down to having someone else get us in the playoffs."
Josh Howard scored 36 to lead Dallas in his third straight 30-point game since Nowitzki went down with the injury. Brandon Bass added 21 off the bench, while Kidd had 13 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Dallas fell to 0-10 against teams with winning records since acquiring Kidd.
The Warriors have made a bad habit of falling behind early and this game was no different. The Mavericks made their first six shots, while Golden State opened 0-for-10 and fell behind 12-0 less than 4 minutes into the game. But the Warriors quickly found their stride and erased that entire deficit with a 16-3 run and led 27-26 after one.
Notes:@ Jerry Stackhouse also missed the game for Dallas with a strained right groin. … Golden State has reached 100 points in 37 straight games. … Warriors swingman Mickael Pietrus was reevaluated before the game and doctors said his groin is progressing well but his hamstring is still not healthy enough to begin running. Pietrus, who has missed five straight games, will join the team on an upcoming four-game road trip but is doubtful for the first two games against San Antonio and Dallas.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.