Preview: Suns vs. Mavericks, 8 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona
PHOENIX — Phoenix and Dallas, one game apart near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, are struggling to find traction.
It has been a long, tough stretch for both.
The Suns (17-34) have lost five games in a row and eight of nine as they prepare to play host to the Mavericks on Wednesday, and now they are dealing with another injury to star guard Devin Booker.
Booker missed a 120-109 loss at Memphis on Monday because of a rib injury sustained the day before and is listed as questionable. The Suns did not lead after midway through the first quarter and trailed by as many as 25.
The Mavericks (16-35), have dropped four in a row and 10 of their last 13 after a 95-88 loss to Miami on Monday. The Mavs never led after the second quarter, although they got within three points in the final minute.
For both, close is not good enough.
“We have to play like that the whole game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters regarding his team’s fourth-quarter run.
“I am pretty upbeat about a lot of things, but I don’t think you make a living in this league with moral victories. About, ‘Hey, we did some good things down the stretch.’ It’s not going to get you there.”
The Mavericks have lost by two, three (three times), four, six and seven (twice) points during their recent skid. They are 6-17 on the road, and Phoenix is the first stop on a four-game trip that ends Feb. 8 at Golden State.
“We’re showing that we can have these comebacks,” Mavs forward Harrison Barnes told reporters. “But that’s not the issue. It’s what we’re doing before that to put ourselves in that position. Look at the other 44 minutes, that’s the biggest thing for us right now.”
At Memphis, Phoenix could not overcome the loss of Booker, who is 11th in the league with a 24.7 scoring average. He fell awkwardly while contesting a shot by Houston’s Ryan Anderson in a 113-102 loss Sunday and left early for the locker room.
X-rays taken Monday were negative, but his status for the Dallas game is unclear.
Booker missed nine games in December with a left adductor strain, including a 97-91 victory at Dallas on Dec. 18.
Barnes had 26 points in that game, in which the Suns outscored the Mavs by 13 points in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had five points and four rebounds.
The Suns held the Mavericks to 36.4 percent shooting from the field, but defense has been an issue recently.
Memphis shot 56.6 percent Monday and was 11 of 22 from 3-point range. Five of the Suns’ last eight opponents have shot 50 percent or better from the field, and the Suns have lost all five. The Suns played without starting forward Marquese Chriss (ankle) and Tyson Chandler (rest).
“We’re banged up,” interim coach Jay Triano said after the game. “Even guys who are playing are limping and trying to play through injury right now, but we still have to be better at the defensive end.
“Allowed them to shoot 50 percent from the field and over 50 percent from the field, and that’s not good enough.”
The Suns are 8-17 at home. TJ Warren is averaging 19.8 points per game, but no one else — other than Booker — is at more than 11.5.
Nowitzki, 39, should soon become the sixth player in the league to play least 50,000 minutes. He has played 49,941. Elvin Hayes is fifth with 50,000, and Jason Kidd is fourth with 50,111.
He is averaging 12.0 points and 24.9 minutes per game this year, lowest since his rookie year.