Posted January 16, 2013 on AP on Fox
Dirk Nowitzki has been the Dallas Mavericks' preeminent scorer through nearly all of his 15 seasons, but he hasn't had to carry the load during one of the team's longest win streaks of 2012-13. Looking for another balanced effort, Dallas will seek a season-high fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night while trying to add to its recent dominance over the struggling Houston Rockets. After starting slowly in his return from knee surgery, Nowitzki has been making progress while averaging 16.9 points over his last seven games. That includes a string of three straight victories in which the Mavericks (16-23) have scored 111.3 points per game. Seven players are averaging in double figures during the win streak, and Nowitzki isn't even the top scorer. O.J. Mayo is producing 18.3 points per game while Nowitzki is one of three players with 14.7. Another one of those, Darren Collison, had a team-best 23 points and nine assists Monday in a 113-98 win over Minnesota while Mayo and Elton Brand scored 20 apiece. "We're playing with more familiarity with one another, with more familiarity with the system. Our reads are better," coach Rick Carlisle told the team's official website. "We've been doing some good things in that area. The challenge will be continuing." The Mavericks will try to extend their run while earning a ninth straight win against Houston. With Nowitzki out, Mayo stepped up to match a career high with 40 points - 10 in the final three minutes - in a 116-109 road win over the Rockets on Dec. 8. Chris Kaman added 20 points despite dealing with a sprained left ankle. The Rockets (21-18) don't appear poised to end their lengthy skid against their in-state rival after a season-high fourth straight defeat overall, 117-109 to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Houston shot 50.0 percent and had five players in double figures, led by James Harden's 23 points, but allowed the Clippers to shoot 53.8 percent and make 11 of 19 from 3-point range. The Rockets have also dropped three in a row on the road after winning five of their previous six outside of Houston. They begin a four-game road trip Wednesday. "You can't (lose at home)," Harden said. "We've got to be better, especially on the defensive end. We've got to guard in order to win games. It's simple." Harden, averaging 26.4 points in his first season in Houston, has topped 20 points in a career-best 21 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. He scored 39 in the loss to the Mavericks in December and had 29 in his most recent visit to Dallas, the clinching game in Oklahoma City's opening-round playoff sweep May 5. Nowitzki had 35 points and went 12 of 12 from the free-throw line in his most recent game versus the Rockets, a 117-110 home victory April 18. He averaged 29.0 points in three games against Houston last season, his second-highest mark against any Western Conference opponent. The Mavericks are trying to win four straight for the first time since March 13-19 and earn a season high-tying third consecutive home victory.
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