Somehow, someway, the Dallas Mavericks are still alive in the Western Conference playoff chase, mostly because Dirk Nowitzki and the gang of bears are playing their best basketball of the season, finally not letting late game collapses and tense moments fall the wrong way. They still need some things to happen besides taking care of their own destiny, but things are looking bright for possibly the first time in 2013.

Dirk Nowitzki, when he retires, will go down as the greatest European player of all-time, and the things he keeps pulling off on his tired old legs don’t cease to amaze everyone, even Dallas fans who have been witnessing his ability to look weird yet unstoppable all at the same time for over a decade now. Nowitzki scored 33 points, including the first eight in overtime, as the Mavericks beat the Clippers 109-102, advancing to 35-36, putting them only one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers and level with the Utah Jazz in a three headed-race (Portland are probably out) for the last spot in the West, all three teams with 11 games left to play.

We’ve fought an uphill battle all season long. Honestly, we’re playing the best basketball we have all season. So we gotta keep this momentum going.

The Mavs have won 15 of their last 22 games after falling to a season worst eight games behind .500, vowing to not shave their beards until their mission to earn that winning record, which might not be enough when it’s all said and done. Nowitzki, looking quite Grizzly like, isn’t the only one who is doing great lately (averaging 22 points over the last five games) in an attempt to keep the Mavs’ playoff streak alive.

Chris Paul, who had one heck of a game, scoring 33 points on 12-15 from the field, gave the Clippers a 97-95 lead with 5 seconds left on the clock. O.J. Mayo made an amazing shot with 0.6 seconds left, slipping it in from behind the backboard, to tie it at 97-97. Blake Griffin scored what would be known as a “hail-mary” basket if not for the offensive foul the refs called on him, which is going to be something the Clippers talk about for the next few days, obviously feeling robbed a tad by officials instead of leaving Dallas with a win.

Those are tough calls. I have to look at it. That wasn’t the difference. They made some tough shots, and we weren’t able to convert on a couple of plays down the stretch.

Making the playoffs is a source of pride, and money. For a team that some of its parts are still here from their improbable Championship run in 2011, especially their head coach Rick Carlisle, getting into the final 8 means that there’s a chance, every time they’re in there. While getting a lottery pick might be more beneficial in the long run, that’s simply not what the Mavericks under Mark Cuban have been about. They see themselves, still, as one of the best teams in the West, as long as Dirk Nowitzki still has some legs to push him to these kind of nights, while the rest of the guys around him, like O.J. Mayo with supplementary scoring (only 11 points) while a pretty deep bench with tons of experience hopes to get a chance to show what they got beyond the 82 regular season games.