DALLAS — Like Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire," the Golden State Warriors are depending on the kindness of strangers.
Simply winning out over their final seven games isn't enough to guarantee themselves a spot on the Western Conference's playoff dance card. Not after the Dallas Mavericks exacted some revenge for their brutally shocking playoff dismissal last season at the hands of the Warriors with a never-a-doubt 111-86 pasting Wednesday night.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki made a stirring return from ankle and knee injuries to whip a sellout American Airlines Center crowd of 20,331 into a frenzy, and Jason Kidd, Josh Howard and Jason Terry conspired to beat the Warriors at their game, easily outsprinting the NBA's highest-paced offense with 44 fast-break points.
Kidd finished with 17 assists and 11 rebounds, and Howard and Terry scored a combined 59 points.
"They just outran us," Warriors point guard Baron Davis said. "How many times can you say that, that we got outran? But that's what happened."
Davis scored 20 points and Monta Ellis finished with a team-high 27 in an attempt to hold the fort, but another night without a scintilla of ball movement — 10 assists, compared to Dallas' 35 — helped torpedo the hopes of Golden State, which picked a miserable time to lose two in a row for only the second time since November.
That leaves the Warriors (45-30) one game behind the Nuggets (46-29) and two back of the Mavericks (47-28), although those figures effectively swell to two and three games because of Wednesday's outcome. Golden State is now certain to lose any tiebreaker, be it of the head-to-head or three-way variety, and must be a game clear of either Denver or Dallas at the close of business April 16 to qualify for the postseason.
"I don't want to be at that point, depending on somebody else," said swingman Stephen Jackson, who suffered through a 1-for-11 shooting night. "We can't really plan on that. We've just got to be ready to try to win the rest of them. We're going to have to. It's mandatory. And hopefully, we won't have to wait for another team to lose."
The Mavericks fed off the intensity brought by the return of Nowitzki, who drew a series of roaring ovations from pregame introductions onward. Nowitzki was expected to require two weeks to heal sufficiently from injuries he suffered March 23 but beat that projection handily.
Playing with a left ankle so well-padded it looked like he was wearing a house-arrest bracelet, Nowitzki scored 18 points and had five rebounds in only 27 minutes.
"A big difference was Nowitzki playing, just quite an inspiration to their ballclub, and they just went to a different level than what we've seen this year," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "We just didn't have enough in the tank to complete with them."
Nowhere was that more evident than in the shooting numbers. In addition to Jackson's rough night, Al Harrington went 1 for 9, Matt Barnes was 1 for 5, and C.J. Watson carded an 0 for 6 in 10 minutes.
All those misses were like the bone-dry tinder that's prevalent throughout Texas at the moment. And Kidd served as the match to set the whole court ablaze, Warriors-style.
"That's what J-Kidd does," Harrington said. "That's when he affects the game the most is in that open court. ... Guys were missing shots and kind of standing around instead of getting back. A lot of us have been trying to will shots in, standing there a little longer, trying to put it in with our mind."
The Warriors next play Friday at Memphis.
"At this point, you've got to be able to shake off tough losses like this and get to the next game," Davis said. "We have to get our spark back, and that's going to start with Memphis."