DALLAS – With 25 games reminding in the regular season, the goal for the Dallas Mavericks is the same now as it was before this season started over four months ago.

“I’m not sure I want to advertise (the goals), but it starts with winning games,” coach Rick Carlisle said after the first post-All-Star game practice on Wednesday afternoon at the Lympo practice facilities. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we want to always play our hardest.

“And the two key areas that are going to determine where we are with winning games are rebounding and ball security. We’ve got to take care of it and we’ve got to rebound.”

In essence, the Mavs are hopeful of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. That’s their objective these final seven weeks of the season.

In their first game since the All-Star break, the Mavs (26-31) will host the Denver Nuggets (39-18) on Friday at 7:30 at American Airlines Center. After that contest, they’ll fly to Utah where they’ll play the Jazz on Saturday night in Salt Lake City, and then play the Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday night.

“These three (games) out of four (days) out of the break is very challenging,” Carlisle said. “Challenging travel. But we had a good day of practice today and we’ll be ready and we’ll go hard.

“Denver coming in on Friday is one of the top rebounding teams in the league and we’ve got to board with them.”

The Mavs are just four games behind the Clippers (32-27) in the loss column for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. And of the Mavs’ final 25 games, 13 of them are against teams who would qualify for the playoffs if the postseason started Thursday.

“We’re going to play these games to win them,” Carlisle said. “It’s a hard schedule down the stretch, no question about it.

“We have 25 games left, we want to learn as much as we can, of course, but we’re trying to win. We don’t want to compromise winning to find out if a guy can make a left-handed hook shot over a shot-blocker or anything like that.”

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