Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are clinging to one of four remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Their recent play on the road is a big reason why.
The Mavericks try to extend their road winning streak to five for the first time in three seasons Sunday when they meet the lowly Sacramento Kings.
After alternating wins and losses during a franchise-record eight-game homestand, Dallas (46-31) has opened a crucial four-game trek with back-to-back victories. One night after handing the Clippers just their sixth home loss by beating the Pacific Division champions 113-107, the Mavericks beat the Lakers 107-95 on Friday.
Nowitzki had 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, Brandan Wright scored a season-high 23 while going 10 of 10 from the field and former Kings center Samuel Dalembert came up with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
"You know, I said last night that a win against the Clippers doesn’t mean anything if we lose today, and I thought that’s how we came out," Nowitzki told the team’s official website. "We got the early lead. And when we establish ourselves early and come ready to play, I always like our chances at home or on the road."
Nowitzki is averaging 28.7 points and 10.3 boards in three games this month while shooting 64.2 percent, including 11 of 17 from 3-point range. He overtook Dominique Wilkins on the career scoring list Friday, moving into 11th place with 26,678 points – 32 shy of Oscar Robertson.
He’s led Dallas to seventh place in the West, one-half game ahead of Memphis and Phoenix.
The Mavericks have one of the league’s top road records since Dec. 23 at 17-8, including a trio of four-game win streaks. The current one has been by an average of 12.0 points and includes a victory over Oklahoma City.
They haven’t posted five consecutive victories away from home since 2010-11, when it went on to win the NBA championship.
"They’re playing inspired basketball," Lakers swingman Kent Bazemore said. "If anyone needs to win right now, it’s them."
While the Mavs are 25-4 against Sacramento since April 2006, the Kings have hung tough this season. Sacramento pulled out a 112-97 home victory Dec. 9 before narrowly losing the last two meetings in Dallas, 107-103 on Jan. 31 and 103-100 last Saturday.
Dallas led by 17 late in the second quarter that night, then trailed by five with less than four minutes to play before pulling off the win. Rudy Gay scored 30 for the Kings and Reggie Evans pulled down a season-high 18 rebounds.
"They’ve got some talented guys," Nowitzki said. "I thought Gay made some shots all night long, so we had to grind this one out and that’s what we did."
Sacramento (27-49) followed with back-to-back wins over New Orleans and the Lakers before getting blown out 102-69 at Golden State on Friday. The Kings, outscored 59-27 over the first two quarters, posted season lows in points and field-goal percentage (32.1).
DeMarcus Cousins was the only Kings player to score more than 10, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds before spending most of the fourth quarter on the bench.
"It happened pretty fast, but once it started to happen, I just think guys got rattled," said Cousins, whose team was outscored 54-28 in the paint. "We just never really recovered."
Cousins is averaging 28.0 points and 12.3 boards while shooting 66.7 percent in his last three home games. He had 32 points and 19 rebounds in December’s win over the Mavericks but battled foul trouble in last week’s meeting, finishing with 17 points and seven boards.
Nowitzki is averaging 14.8 points on 37.7 percent shooting in his last five games at Sacramento.