Jazz-Mavericks Preview

The Dallas Mavericks are slowly climbing back into the Western

Conference playoff picture.

The Utah Jazz are aiding that ascent.

Dallas tries to Utah for ninth place in the West on Sunday night

when the Jazz try to prevent their first nine-game road skid in 31

seasons.

The Mavericks (33-36), who are tied with Portland, have split

their last six games since a 4-0 run, but they’ve moved with one

game of the Jazz (34-35), who have dropped three straight and 11 of

14.

Dallas still has work to do to extend its playoff streak to 13 –

it is 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers – but

a 104-94 victory over Boston on Friday was a step in the right

direction after opening its season-high six-game homestand with a

113-96 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday.

“It’s good. Any win is good right now,” said forward Shawn

Marion, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds after missing eight games

with a strained left calf. “You know, we’re just trying to

gradually get to that .500 mark right now. We’ve got to keep taking

these steps in that direction, and if we can knock down this

homestand it can be a good thing for us.”

The Mavericks have lost twice in Salt Lake City this season –

113-94 on Oct. 31 and 100-94 on Jan. 7 – but they’ve owned the Jazz

in Dallas, winning four straight and 18 of the last 21

regular-season matchups.

That’s bad news for a Utah team riding its worst road losing

streak since 2005. The Jazz will try to salvage the final game of

their three-city Texas trip – and avoid a season high-tying fourth

consecutive loss – after falling 104-97 in overtime to West-leading

San Antonio on Friday.

“We played a tough team on their home floor and had a chance to

win for the first time in a long time,” said center Al Jefferson,

who had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his third consecutive

double-double. “The energy and the effort was there for all 48

minutes plus. If we continue to play the way we did tonight for the

rest of these 12 games, we have a great chance.”

The Jazz have to feel good about starting a stretch of eight of

10 at home on Monday, but they’re in danger of dropping nine

straight outside Salt Lake City for the first time since a 17-game

skid spanning Nov. 21, 1981-Feb. 6, 1982.

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had a team-best 20 points

on Jan. 7 after missing the previous matchup following knee

surgery, is averaging 33.1 points and 8.0 rebounds in his last

eight home games versus Utah. He finished with 40 points in the

Jazz’s last visit, a Mavericks 102-96 victory on March 3, 2012.

Nowitzki also scored 40 – matching a season high – in a 123-121

triple-overtime road loss on April 16 that ended Dallas’ seven-game

win streak between the teams.

Utah’s current three-game run over the Mavericks is its longest

since reeling off 12 straight victories from Feb. 15, 1997-Feb. 24,

2000.