Suns-Mavericks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 03, 2012
Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash are still adjusting to the compressed NBA season. Recent victories should have the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns feeling good about their stars' improvements. Nowitzki and the Mavericks look to build on their most impressive effort yet by extending their home winning streak over Nash and the Suns to eight Wednesday night. The shortened preseason and congested 66-game regular season caused by the lockout are contributing to slow starts for Dallas (2-4) and Phoenix (2-3). Nowitzki and the reigning NBA champion Mavericks, however, may have shaken their funk with an impressive 100-87 win over previously unbeaten Oklahoma City on Monday, concluding a 2-2 stretch in five days. The power forward enjoyed his best shooting performance of the young season, going 10 for 16 from the floor for 26 points while adding six rebounds. Averaging 22.5 points, Nowitzki feels improvement will come as the season wears on. "I've still got work to do, like everyone else," Nowitzki said. "My wind is coming back and my legs are getting stronger. "This team is set up to get better month-by-month. We should have a good team in March and April. Saying that, we've still got to find ways to win." Nash also had a strong effort Monday, as he scored a season-high 21 points while dishing out nine assists with two steals to power a 102-91 win over Golden State. It was the Suns' second victory in three games in a span of four days, and Nash totaled 15 points and 18 assists while making 5 of 18 shots in the first two contests. "It's going to be tough," Nash said. "I haven't played basketball in a long, long time and then to have only two weeks of camp. (Monday) would normally have been preseason game number seven. It's going to take some time." While Phoenix is playing the first of five games over 10 days, Nowitzki and the Mavericks are playing three times in four days. Facing the visiting Suns would appear to be a good way for the Mavericks to start that stretch in positive fashion. Nowitzki is averaging 28.0 points on 58.1 percent shooting during Dallas' seven-game home winning streak against Phoenix dating to a 129-127 double-overtime loss March 14, 2007. Overall, the Mavericks have won five in a row against the Suns. "We're gaining a little momentum," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've got to continue the right way and maintain the proper focus, and that's challenging." Nash is averaging 8.0 points and 9.2 assists over the last five meetings with the Mavericks, and he could get some help from forward Markieff Morris. The 13th overall pick in last summer's NBA draft, Morris has totaled 31 points and 15 boards over the last two games after getting 16 and 12, respectively, in the first three. "I'm learning but I'm picking it up fast," Morris said. "I'm trying not to speed through things, to take my time, don't get too high or too low, just keep it leveled out." Morris' first meeting with the Mavericks will likely see him matched up opposite Nowitzki.
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