Mavericks-Suns Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 08, 2012
The Dallas Mavericks haven't won away from home in nearly three weeks, and their upcoming stretch of three road games in three nights may have come at an inopportune time. They have a solid chance of ending that streak, though, considering their recent dominance of the Phoenix Suns. Dallas looks to avoid a fifth straight road loss Thursday night by sweeping another season series from Phoenix, which has won five of its last six at home. The struggling Mavericks (23-17) have won only twice in their last seven games overall, though Dirk Nowitzki's 28 points helped them earn a 95-85 home win over New York on Tuesday. "This was a much-needed win. It was a big character win," said Jason Kidd, who scored 15 points. Dallas is in the midst of playing nine games in 12 days, and it will make trips to Sacramento on Friday and Golden State on Saturday to conclude that stretch. Starting center Brendan Haywood's status is uncertain after he sat out Tuesday with a sprained left ankle, but coach Rick Carlisle said he'll travel with the team. Nowitzki has done his part over the last three games, averaging 31.7 points and shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He scored 24 in the second half Tuesday. "The rhythm I had there in the second half, I was definitely looking for the ball," Nowitzki said. "I was chasing the ball sometimes, I was looking at Kidd and basically telling him, 'Just bring it over here and let me try and take it home.'" It's winning on the road that's been the problem for the Mavericks. They've lost a season-high four straight road games, the last being a 95-91 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday. Kidd was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officiating after that contest. Another trip to Phoenix may help end that skid after Dallas routed the Suns 122-99 on Jan. 30 in its last visit. That marked the club's eighth consecutive win over Phoenix, which played without Steve Nash due to a left thigh contusion. The Suns, though, have their point guard back and went 5-1 on a six-game homestand from Feb. 19 through Sunday before falling 115-104 at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Nash had 12 points and 13 assists and Marcin Gortat finished with a career-high 28 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix (17-21), which blew a 16-point second-half lead and was outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter. "I thought we gave ourself a chance and we just weren't able to close it out," coach Alvin Gentry said. "You hope for a chance to be able to compete and put yourself in a position to where maybe making a couple of plays down the stretch you'll be able to win the game." Nash, who played for the Mavericks from 1998-2004, has averaged 11.4 assists in his last five games against his former team, though he's scored eight points or fewer in three of those contests. He went 2 for 9 from the field in Dallas during a 93-87 loss Jan. 23, when former Suns forward Shawn Marion scored a game-high 29 points. Nowitzki didn't play that night, sitting out with a sore right knee. Nowitzki scored 20 points and Nash had a solid 15-point, 12-assist performance Jan. 4 in Dallas' 98-89 win. Phoenix's last victory in the series was a 112-106 home win Jan. 28, 2010.
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