Mavericks-Thunder Preview

Failing to measure up in their much-anticipated NBA Finals

rematch, the Oklahoma City Thunder have gone back to the drawing

board.

The Dallas Mavericks are also looking to refocus now that their

star forward has returned to the lineup.

The Thunder will try to stop their first losing streak of the

season and win their 11th straight at home on Thursday night when

they take on the Mavericks.

After winning 12 consecutive games – the franchise’s longest

streak since 1995-96 – Oklahoma City (21-6) dropped consecutive

road contests against Minnesota on Dec. 20 and Miami on

Tuesday.

The Thunder suffered their first defeat in five games following

a loss and haven’t lost three in a row since April 2-6.

While Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 54

points – more than any set of teammates had against the Heat – both

missed potential game-tying 3-pointers in Miami.

“Unfortunately we didn’t come away with the win but we did a lot

of good things that we can take away to the next game,” coach Scott

Brooks told the team’s official website.

The Thunder fell to 11-3 when both stars score 20 or more

points, but they could certainly use some help. Durant and

Westbrook have scored 117 points in the team’s last two losses,

while the rest of the team has totaled just 73.

After averaging 108.6 points while shooting 49.1 percent from

the floor during its 12-game run, Oklahoma City has slowed to 95.0

and 41.2 percent, respectively, the past two contests.

The Thunder should have a decent chance to get back on track

against a Dallas team that ranks near the bottom of the NBA in

scoring defense (103.8 per game) in December.

The return of former MVP Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t enough to prevent

the Mavericks (12-16) from losing for the sixth time in seven

games, as they fell 129-91 at San Antonio on Sunday.

Dallas trailed by as many as 46 before losing its ninth game by

15 points or more.

“We got a (butt-kicking), that’s it,” forward Shawn Marion

said. “No need to explain it … it was an old-fashioned

(butt-kicking).”

The blowout loss spoiled the long-awaited return of Nowitzki,

the team’s leading scorer every season since 1999-00. He scored

eight points in 20 minutes off the bench after missing the first 27

games following knee surgery in October.

“We need to keep on working,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got a lot

of areas to improve. We might not be as talented as some teams on

the top, but if we’re not, you have to make it up with how you play

and compete and it’s just not there.”

While it’s likely to take Nowitzki some time to get back into

form, the Mavericks could use his prolific scoring with O.J. Mayo

battling illness and a minor slump.

Mayo, who missed the team’s workouts earlier in the week because

of a fever, is expected to play after returning to practice on

Wednesday.

The team scoring leader (19.3) will try to bounce back after

averaging 8.3 points on 9 of 33 from the field in his last three

games.

Dallas has totaled just 89.3 points on 41.5 percent shooting

during its three-game skid, but might be catching the Thunder at

the right time. Oklahoma City has given up 101.0 points on 45.7

percent in its back-to-back losses.

The Thunder have won six straight against the Mavericks,

including a sweep in the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs.