(SportsNetwork.com) - If only the Dallas Mavericks resided in the Eastern Conference.
The Mavericks occupy the last playoff spot in the West with a 34-23 record, a mark good enough to take over the No. 3 seed in the opposing conference.
Dallas will continue its push toward the postseason when it concludes a three- game road trip Monday night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Dallas has defeated Philadelphia and Detroit on the eastern swing and recently handed the Pistons a 113-102 setback Saturday.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points, Vince Carter added 18 off the bench and Samuel Dalembert chipped in 12 and 11 rebounds. Monta Ellis also scored 12 points to go along with 13 assists for the Mavericks, winners in eight of 10 and nine of the past 12 games.
"It's the second part of the season, so it's crunch time," Carter said. "This is where you earn your money. I'm just trying to give our bench a lift and get us in the playoffs, where we feel like we should be."
The Mavs shot 48.9 percent and almost blew a 13-point lead (75-62) after the Pistons pulled within 84-80. The Mavericks held Detroit to 20 points in the fourth quarter and dominated the boards to the tune of 50-39. They had a 16-9 edge on the offensive glass.
Dallas, which owns a 17-8 record against the East, is a season-high 11 games over .500 and has won three straight and five of the last six road games. It is 16-14 away from Big D this season.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki is averaging 24.5 points in his last 12 games and has 20- plus points in each of the past three. The Mavs are 22-12 when he hits the 20- point mark this season.
The Mavericks will play two in a row at home later this week versus New Orleans and Chicago.
New York's next four games won't be easy ones with Dallas, Miami, Golden State and Chicago on the horizon. It has lost back-to-back games against Orlando and Atlanta, and sustained a 107-98 loss to the Hawks on Saturday.
Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony did his part with 35 points on 13-of-25 shooting and hit 4-of-8 from 3-point range. The sharpshooter has scored 35- plus points in each of his last three games and is posting 33.1 ppg over the previous 14 contests. He is second in the NBA with 27.9 ppg.
Still, Anthony hasn't been able to propel his team to victory and the Knicks are only 2-8 this month.
"Right now we're digging ourselves in a much deeper hole," Anthony said. "It's not early in the season anymore, so we can't use that excuse."
Raymond Felton had 16 points and 10 assists, while Tyson Chandler chipped in 10 points and pulled down 23 rebounds for New York, which went 1-3 on the southern road trip and sits 5 1/2 games off a playoff spot.
The Knicks have lost three of their last four games at MSG and are 12-18 in the confines of the historic arena. Anthony is averaging 29.2 ppg at the Garden and has 20-plus points in his last 18 home games (31.5 ppg).
Anthony was limited to 19 points in a 92-80 win at Dallas on Jan. 5, while Nowitzki countered with 18 points. The Knicks have beaten the Mavs twice in the past three meetings. Dallas is winless in its last two trips to MSG after winning five straight trips there.