76ers-Mavericks Preview

While the Dallas Mavericks have been without star Dirk Nowitzki
all season, the Philadelphia 76ers are hoping the absence of top
scorer Jrue Holiday will end at two games.

Holiday could return from a sprained left foot Tuesday night
when the visiting 76ers and Mavericks meet in a matchup of teams on
three-game losing streaks.

Dallas (11-13) is trying to avoid its longest slide of the
season at the start of a difficult week that includes games against
Miami, Memphis and San Antonio. The Mavericks knew it would be
tough to find consistency while former league MVP Nowitzki recovers
from knee surgery.

“As soon as he gets back on the court, the identity of the team
can start to build around that,” guard Derek Fisher said. “We have
no idea when that will be so it’s just a matter of creating an
identity each night.”

Philadelphia (12-12) is enduring its season-worst losing skid
with Holiday missing Friday’s 95-85 defeat at Indiana and Sunday’s
111-98 home loss to the Lakers.

Holiday is averaging 18.4 points and is among the league leaders
with 8.9 assists per game. He worked out Monday on his own before
the 76ers departed on this two-game trip.

“I gotta see how I react to it,” Holiday said. “This is probably
the hardest I have gone shooting in the last couple of days.
Usually in shootaround, it’s just light stuff. But I actually got
to jump up and down and break a sweat today.”

Coach Doug Collins was not happy that his team allowed the
Pacers and Lakers to combine to shoot 45.8 percent from 3-point
range in the last two games. Collins believes defenders have had to
rotate too much, leaving open shooters.

“Defensively you first must take on the challenge of guarding
your guy, you can’t be guarding a guy looking for help,” Collins
said. “I think we’ve been guarding guys looking for help. We’ve got
to take on that challenge.”

Nowitzki has led the Mavericks to six straight home wins in this
series. Dallas will try to even the season series after a 100-98
loss Nov. 27.

That contest was tight throughout before Philadelphia took the
lead for good in the fourth quarter thanks to a 12-0 run aided by
numerous Dallas miscues.

“In that game the stretch that killed us was the
six-consecutive-turnover stretch in the fourth quarter,” coach Rick
Carlisle said.

The Mavs averaged 21.7 turnovers on a 0-3 road trip that began
with a double-overtime defeat in Boston and finished with
Saturday’s 114-106 overtime loss to Minnesota.

“To be honest, we’ve done uncharacteristically stupid things,”
Carlisle said. “We’ve got to work to correct it.”

Dallas is among the NBA’s worst teams with 15.9 turnovers per
game while the 76ers rank second-best in that category at 12.4.

Fisher had yet to join the Mavs when these first met. Chris
Kaman scored 20 to lead Dallas and Elton Brand added 17 and eight
rebounds in his first game against the team he played with over his
previous four seasons.

Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young combined for 42 points for the