Kyrie Irving

Mavs expect Kings to be ‘different team' in crucial rematch

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Several Kings fans looking forward to watching NBA playoff-like basketball left Golden 1 Center midway through the fourth quarter of Tuesday's 132-96 blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks feeling disappointed. 

Friday's rematch between the two teams fighting for the Western Conference's No. 6 seed is expected to be a completely different 48 minutes, though, and the Mavericks know it.

“We got to play the Kings again. It will be a different team on Friday," Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said after Tuesday's game (h/t "The beauty of that is we just went through that on Friday with Utah. And we’ll be fresh and ready to go.”

The team Dallas faced on Tuesday -- at least in the second half -- looked deflated, defeated and like they were the only ones coming off a back-to-back, although that was the case for both squads.

Entering Tuesday's contest, Sacramento had won four of its last five games and was playing its best defense of the 2023-24 NBA season in March. That was until Luka Dončić lit them up early, with 26 first-half points before passing the torch over to Kyrie Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr., who combined for 46 points on 18-of-33 shooting from the field and 8 of 15 from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, Dallas won its fifth consecutive game after Tuesday's blowout loss in Sacramento and ninth in 10 games.

“We don’t take for granted how well we’ve been playing,” Mavericks star point guard Kyrie Irving said. “But we’re not satisfied just because of where we are position-wise.”

With the regular season coming down to just a handful of games remaining, the sixth and final playoff spot that avoids the NBA play-in tournament is up for grabs, with the Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Kings knocking at the door.

The Kings are one game behind the sixth-seeded Mavericks, and if they win Friday's game against them, they can even things out with Dallas and also clinch the tiebreaker.

While Tuesday's stinker didn't live up the hype of the projected "mini playoff series," there still is one more game to fulfill that excitement -- and the stakes couldn't be higher.

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