Kristaps Porzingis was back Wednesday night.

And so were the Mavericks as they took a big step toward ensuring they can avoid the NBA’s play-in tournament next week.

The Mavericks looked completely different than they did 24 hours earlier in Memphis. And that’s a good thing.

They shook off that hangover and smothered the New Orleans Pelicans 125-107 Wednesday at American Airlines Center as Porzingis returned after two weeks on the shelf and Luka Dončić got back to being Luka Dončić.

The dominant win pushed the Mavericks to 41-29 with two games remaining in the regular season. Their magic number for clinching one of the top six playoff spots was reduced to one, but they still technically trail Portland for the No. 5 seed in the West. The Blazers won at Utah Wednesday.

Still, one more Mavericks’ win, or a loss by the Los Angeles Lakers (who narrowly defeated Houston late Wednesday) will assure the Mavericks the No. 6 spot and lock the Lakers into the play-in tournament.

“This is all anybody’s talking about – the play-in,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There’s so much talk about it, it’s permeated the Internet and the refuge is to play the games. And hopefully play them well.

“Last night we didn’t play well. Tonight we played much better. We’re one step closer. We still have some level of control of our destiny. We obviously need one more to secure at least the sixth position. But there’s still a lot to be determined.”

Then, Carlisle added another key point: “The important thing is tomorrow is a day off and there’s no more back-to-backs.”

As they perch on the lip of the playoff cup, Wednesday was all about getting Porzingis back on the court. He was operating on a minutes restriction, but with the game safely in hand by the end of the third quarter, when the Mavericks led by 31, Carlisle didn’t have to worry about overusing anybody.

Dončić bounced back from a 4-of-16 shooting night Tuesday with 33 points, including 7-of-14 shooting from 3-point range.

Porzingis, meanwhile, appeared to already have his legs back under him after missing the last seven games and 10 of the last 11 because of right knee and ankle issues.

The 7-3 center/forward finished with 19 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes. Porzingis did not play past the third quarter.

“I felt good right away,” Porzingis said. “I’ve been staying active with the basketball stuff. Tonight was pretty good. And my legs are feeling fresh and ready to go. I’ve had some good stretches and some bad stretches. But I’m looking forward to peaking now, having these two or three games to really get my rhythm, make sure my legs are feeling good physically and be ready at the right time for the playoffs.”

Porzingis and Dončić got a taste of the playoffs last summer in the bubble.

They are looking forward to more.

“This is like dessert,” Porzingis said. “This is what you’re waiting for all season, so it’s easy to get your energy going when it’s playoff time. That’s when you want to put everything out there. I’m looking forward to that.”

Porzingis started alongside Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith on the front line. Tim Hardaway Jr. stayed in the starting lineup, a decision that no doubt was made easier for Rick Carlisle the way Hardaway has averaged better than 24 points in the last five games, all starts.

There obviously isn’t a lot of time to get Porzingis back into a rhythm. But Carlisle has to worry about winning games on top of doing whatever is possible to get Porzingis in a comfortable mode in the span of three games left in the regular season.

But the decision to keep Hardaway in the starting lineup was at least partly based on the shooting guard’s relationship with Porzingis.

“First and foremost, we’re happy to have the big fellow back,” said Hardaway, who kept his hot streak going with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. “I’ve been playing with this guy the last three or four years. And I just feel comfortable out there when we’re together on the floor.

“I know where to get him the ball when he’s asking for it. We just have a great mesh. To go out there and compete with him, I’m happy to have that.”

And when the Mavericks were done dispatching the shorthanded Pelicans, they could breathe slightly easier knowing they were on the verge of clinching a playoff berth.

“We definitely knew we had to get this win,” Hardaway said.

Twitter: @ESefko

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