Spurs-Mavericks Preview

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks entered their Christmas

break with a needed win.

The San Antonio Spurs didn’t have nearly as good a holiday.

Looking to build on their latest effort, the Mavericks try to

avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the visiting Spurs as these

Southwest Division rivals meet for the first time Thursday

night.

Dallas (16-12) had dropped back-to-back games and four of six

before winning 111-104 at Houston on Monday. Nowitzki led the way

with 31 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.

“You don’t ever want to sit on two days at Christmas with a

three-game losing streak, so we definitely wanted to have this

one,” Nowitzki told the team’s official website. “We competed and

everybody who was out there played hard.”

After undergoing knee surgery and missing the first 27 games of

2012-13, the 35-year-old Nowitzki appears to be back to his old

self. He is averaging a team-leading 21.5 points, 4.2 more than

last season.

“The driving the ball is what’s missing a little now,” Nowitzki

said. “I do a lot of one or two dribble and then up, but I want to

get back to driving some more to the basket and get to the foul

line. I don’t think I’m in ’11 shape, but compared to the last two

years I feel a lot better. The right knee is great and I feel

better.”

The Mavericks could use a vintage performance from Nowitzki as

they try to snap their recent woes against the Spurs (22-7). Dallas

has dropped nine of 11 in the series, including five straight by an

average of 17.4 points.

Nowitzki has been held to 13.6 per game and 35.9 percent

shooting during that skid. However, he did score 21 and pull down

11 rebounds in a 92-91 loss at San Antonio on March 14, their last

meeting.

The first-place Spurs look to get back on track after falling

111-98 to Houston on Christmas Day. Manu Ginobili scored a

team-high 22 points off the bench but Tony Parker had a season-low

six on 3-of-11 shooting.

“We didn’t play well,” said Parker, whose team is one of only

two yet to lose back-to-back games this season. “Move on to the

next one, it’s the NBA.”

San Antonio allowed the Rockets to shoot 52.3 percent, its

third-highest mark surrendered thus far. The Spurs are 0-6 when

yielding more than 110 points compared to 22-1 when they don’t.

“We just didn’t give very good performances,” coach Gregg

Popovich said. “You can live with that from time to time. Nobody’s

going to play perfect every night. But you can’t combine poor

performances with a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline.

They whipped us. They whipped us good. That’s an embarrassing

loss.”

Tim Duncan has been held to a combined 20 points on 8-of-27

(29.6 percent) shooting in the last two games.

Monta Ellis is averaging 25.9 points in 10 matchups against San

Antonio since the start of 2009-10, his third-highest mark against

any opposing club. Ellis, averaging 20.6 points, is shooting 50.0

percent at home compared to 42.7 percent on the road.

Dallas has compiled an 11-3 record on its own court. The

Mavericks have won five straight within their division.