Kings-Mavericks Preview

Turning in more lackluster performances resembling their latest
one might result in the Dallas Mavericks growing their beards into
the offseason.

Facing the visiting Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night could
get them closer to busting out their razors.

Dallas seeks an 18th straight regular-season home win and third
overall this season versus Sacramento, which has lost five straight
on the road.

Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and Dirk Nowitzki are just a few of the
Mavericks (22-29) who have vowed not to shave until the team
reaches the .500 mark, which seems a long way off considering their
effort in Monday’s 105-101 home loss to Atlanta.

Dallas will head into the All-Star break needing to make up
plenty of ground to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time
since the 1999-2000 season.

“It just makes it tougher in the second half,” Carter said. “We
have to keep going, we have to win the next one. It’s important for
us to look at the next game and not look too far ahead.”

Carter’s beard, though, is in need of a trim that it might not
see for quite awhile. Nowitzki scored a team-high 24 points and
Mayo added 19 on Monday, and each is sporting plenty of facial
hair.

Carter said they all believe the Mavericks can reach their
goal.

“Guys are confident. That’s why we came together on the whole
beard thing,” Carter said. “It’s because we still believe, and
that’s kind of bringing each other together and holding each other
accountable. We still have an opportunity in the second part of the
season.”

Coach Rick Carlisle wants to see improvement before then.

“We have one opportunity here before the break (to improve), so
it’s an important game,” Carlisle said. “It’s all about us playing
better to trend upward as a team. We’re all going to have to work
hard and dig in. I still believe we can do it.”

Dallas seemingly has a good chance to get back on track by
knocking off a Kings team it has beaten 13 of the last 14 times.
Mayo scored 19 points in a 119-96 home win over Sacramento on Dec.
10, then netted 24 while Carter added 23 as the Mavericks came from
17 down in a 117-112 overtime road victory Jan. 10.

December’s blowout in Dallas was hardly a rarity when the Kings
are in town. The Mavs have outscored Sacramento by an average of
14.8 points in their lengthy home regular-season series winning
streak.

The Kings (19-34), though, had won two straight prior to
Tuesday’s 108-101 loss at Memphis, and Carlisle believes his team
is in for a touch matchup.

“They’re coming off two games where they beat Utah and Houston –
two playoff teams above us,” Carlisle said, “They’re playing well,
so we’re going to have to do better.”

DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 points Tuesday and is averaging 26.3
in his last three versus the Mavericks. Sacramento, though, dropped
to 5-22 on the road this season and is averaging just 86.8 points
and shooting 41.3 percent during its five-game road skid.

“When you get a chance on the road to close the gap and get the
game in your favor, you’ve got to take that,” coach Keith Smart
said. “I thought these guys deserved to win the game based off how
they performed.”

Smart said the Kings need to improve their transition defense,
though, as they allowed 28 fast-break points Tuesday. They’ve given
up an average of 109.2 points with opponents shooting 52.0 percent
over their last five.