By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks need one victory to clinch a playoff berth. A home matchup with the injury depleted Golden State Warriors appears to provide the perfect opportunity.
The defending champions look to secure a return to the postseason and send Golden State to its season-high seventh straight loss Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks (35-28) snapped a two-game skid with a 117-110 win over Houston on Wednesday, moving them into sixth place in the Western Conference, one-half game ahead of Denver.
Dirk Nowitzki got off to a slow start, then scored 21 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away.
"We really needed the win and our guys weren't going to let it go," coach Rick Carlisle told the team's official website.
Nowitzki has averaged 30.0 points over his last five games.
"Dirk put the team on his back," guard Delonte West said. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Dirk was a prime example of that."
The Mavericks would certainly like to get their ticket to the playoffs punched Friday, as they close the regular season with road games against playoff teams Chicago and Atlanta.
Nowitzki's hot stretch started with a 27-point effort in a 112-103 win at Golden State last Thursday, when the Mavericks' bench outscored the Warriors' 57-33.
David Lee had a game-high 30 points for Golden State in that contest, but he hasn't played since and has been shut down for the season with a strained groin.
The Warriors (22-39) have been without Stephen Curry since he sprained his right ankle March 11, and they were missing Andris Biedrins and Nate Robinson in a 99-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Golden State has dropped six straight and 13 of 15.
"Some would perceive these to be dark days," coach Mark Jackson said. "I believe these are times to build character and hold on to the rope even tighter."
Klay Thompson scored a team-high 17 points Wednesday and had 24 in the last meeting with Dallas. He's averaging 18.3 points while starting the last 23 games since Curry's injury, often being guarded by the opposition's top defender.
"It's great experience, being doubled, grabbed and getting beaten up," Jackson said. "The great ones ... it's a complement. I think its valuable experience for him."
Including Thompson, the Warriors started four rookies Wednesday and will be looking at a similar lineup Friday. Jackson guaranteed a playoff appearance before the season began, but the rash of injuries has contributed to Golden State's problems.
A much different-looking Warriors team beat the Mavericks 111-87 on March 10, as Thompson scored 13 points off the bench, but Golden State hasn't had much luck on the road in this series of late. Dallas has won nine of the last 10 home meetings, including postseason.
Updated April 19, 2012