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Mavericks "off to Cancun" after masterful tank job against Bulls

The Dallas Mavericks (38-43) are officially eliminated from postseason contention following a masterful tank job against the Chicago Bulls (39-42) Friday night at American Airlines Center (AAC).

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made his intentions of tanking quite evident when Kyrie Irving (foot), Josh Green (rest), Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle), Maxi Kleber (hamstring) and Christian Wood (rest) were all ruled out against Chicago.

Luka Doncic only played 13 minutes and sat after the first possession of the second quarter. He finished the contest with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Doncic, 24, likely wanted to end the 2022-23 NBA season in front of his fellow countryman, as it was "Slovenia Night" at AAC.

Despite Dallas clearly looking to lose, the game still came down to the final play, where it became evident that Mavericks players were in on the tank job.

Mavericks players in on tank job?

Two players had the opportunity to score a triple that would have sent the game to overtime and keep the team's hopes alive, but they both shot the worst possible bricks.

Prior to the team's postseason elimination, Mavericks reporter Tim MacMahon told ESPN's Malika Andrews why the team was obviously looking to lose, claiming that it's a way to "stick it" to the New York Knicks for swiping Jalen Brunson.

Cuban, 64, reportedly preferred to improve the franchise's odds of landing a top 10 selection in the upcoming draft, which would effectively make the Knicks wait until next offseason to receive their pick from the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

By then, the pick will be for a second-rounder, and the tank job makes sense because Mavericks players don't believe they would even get too far in the playoffs, according to MacMahon.

Mavericks crumble after trade deadline

At the trade deadline, when Dallas acquired Irving, head coach Jason Kidd had his team rolling and well on their way to clinch a playoff berth. Mavericks gave up a lot of their depth in Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith to trade for the controversial guard.

They were four games above .500 in a closely-contested Western Conference following Irving's debut, which Doncic missed due to injury.

Since then, the Mavericks have posted a 9-16 record, 8-12 with Irving in the lineup. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is expected to leave the team, though Cuban has expressed his desire to keep him at the right price.

Irving, 31, never managed to mesh with Doncic because both players are ball-dominant, leading to this end-of-game situation that sums up the Mavericks' season after the trade. They host the San Antonio Spurs (21-59) Sunday before "taking off to Cancun."

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