- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Consider this a warning shot sent down Interstate 35.
"We're going to catch them sooner or later, whether it's now or in the playoffs," Terry said Tuesday following the Mavericks' first post-All-Star break practice. "We'd rather it be in the playoffs, in the Western finals or what have you. But we're going to catch them."
The Western Conference's top seed isn't the primary concern for the Mavericks, winners of 13 of their last 14 games. The Mavericks, who have won only one playoff series since advancing to the 2006 NBA Finals, are much more concerned with peaking for the postseason.
However, those goals certainly aren't mutually exclusive. The Mavericks would have to play outstanding basketball over the next two months to be in position to seize the top seed from the Spurs, who come to Dallas on March 18 for the rivals' final meeting of the regular season.
"You've got to go for it and whatever happens, happens," said Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, who was sidelined by a sprained knee during Dallas' two losses to the Spurs this season. "That's really out of our control. If they keep playing the way they have in the first half, we won't catch them. But you never know. We've got to keep on trying."
The Spurs and Mavericks have developed a rivalry over the last decade that Dallas owner Mark Cuban has called the best in the NBA, meeting in the playoffs five times during that span, including splitting series the last two seasons. Cuban once infamously spiced it up by publicly insulting the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of the San Antonio tourist attraction River Walk.
San Antonio (46-10) and Dallas (40-16) are both on pace to easily extend their streaks of 50-plus-win seasons. The Spurs (11 straight seasons) and Mavericks (10 straight seasons) join the Bill Russell-era Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson-era Los Angeles Lakers as the only franchises with decade-plus runs of 50-win campaigns.
The Mavericks are the only team in that exclusive club that hasn't hung multiple championship banners. They're still on a quest for their first one, and as usual, the Spurs stand in the way.
The Spurs have eliminated the Mavericks three times in the last decade, including last season, when seventh-seeded San Antonio dismissed second-seeded Dallas in six games.
"What happened to us last year in the first round," Terry said, "we're still motivated by it."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.