NBA schedule 2014: Mavericks host Spurs; Nuggets and Warriors close Thursday

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs visit Dallas expecting to get the best of a determined Mavs team, while a battle between the Nuggets and Warriors won't have the implications it might have a year ago.

Two Thursday night games on TNT have playoff implications, but one is a shell of what could have been.

The main course: Spurs vs. Mavericks

8 p.m. ET, TNT

The Dallas Mavericks have played with an urgency that's led to a four-game winning streak, but with just three games left, Thursday is as important a game as any. Rick Carlisle's team hosts the San Antonio Spurs before facing the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, the two teams chasing the Mavs in the playoff race.

The Spurs have won all three games against Dallas this season, but they've done most of the damage behind point guard Tony Parker, who won't play Thursday against the Mavericks because of a back injury.

San Antonio has its own reason to fight for a win. It has a three-game lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference standings. There are still enough games for Kevin Durant's squad to catch the Spurs, especially with Parker sitting out against the seventh-place Mavs. Then again, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph have been successful as a tag-team replacement for Parker throughout this season.

Dirk Nowitzki has been shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in April but hasn't had the same type of success against the Spurs, who have the ability to throw different looks at him defensively in Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw. Monta Ellis may have to pick up the slack, not so easy to do against Gregg Popovich's rotation of energetic guards.

The dessert: Nuggets vs. Warriors

10:30 p.m., TNT

A year ago, this might have been a doozy. The Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets had quickly built a testy rivalry as two exceptional playoff teams, but things have changed since, especially in Denver's corner. Brian Shaw, not George Karl, leads his team into the Bay Area 10 games under .500.

Denver has won two of its last eight games and hasn't been victorious on the road since a March 14 game at Miami. The Nuggets, beaten down by injuries throughout the year, do have a bit of momentum coming off a 123-116 win against the Houston Rockets. That was powered by big performances by Randy Foye (30 points, 15 assists) and Kenneth Faried (23 points, nine rebounds).

Golden State has a bit more to play for. Mark Jackson's team would like to hold off Dallas from taking the sixth-place spot, and a win would clinch a playoff berth. The Mavs are only a game behind the Warriors in the standings, and they'll likely remain behind if Golden State's Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson go for more than 30 points each like they did in a Sunday win against the Utah Jazz.

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