Two old rivals going in opposite directions meet for the second time in 10 days Wednesday night in Dallas.
The San Antonio Spurs (14-4) are off to the second-best start in team history and are undefeated (10-0) on the road. San Antonio had a nine-game winning streak snapped in a 95-83 loss to Orlando at home Tuesday night.
The Dallas Mavericks (3-13) are off to the worst start in Mark Cuban's ownership tenure. Dallas recently ended an eight-game slide, the longest since Cuban bought the club in 2000.
The Mavericks will be without Dirk Nowitzki, who's out for at least the next two games recovering from a right Achilles tendon injury. Nowitzki already missed 11 games this season.
“He's making gradual progress, but not enough to play him right now,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Mavericks picked up a win Sunday, beating New Orleans 91-81 and winning for only the second time at American Airlines Center this season. The victory was much needed.
“It helps a lot,” Carlisle said. “We have been close in a lot of games. The Cleveland game (128-90 loss on Friday) was a bad one, but we have been doing a lot of good things and have just been a little shorthanded.”
The win over the Pelicans began a stretch of eight of out 10 games at home.
“It doesn't matter in this league,” Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews said. “You have to give everything you have and be prepared every single night no matter where you are. We've dropped home games and we've dropped road games, but it does feel good to get a win in front of these fans.”
Harrison Barnes, averaging a career-high 20.8 points, picked up the scoring load with Nowitzki's continued absences. Barnes scored at least 20 points nine times in 16 games after doing so on only six occasions last season with Golden State.
The Spurs are the fifth team in NBA history to start at least 10-0 on the road, which is also a franchise-best winning streak away from home. The Warriors own the best road start, opening 14-0 last season.
San Antonio is 4-4 at home after losing just twice at the AT&T Center a season ago.
“It's hard to explain even for us, as players who are on the floor competing,” Spurs center Pau Gasol said. “It's not like we're trying to lose games at home and then go on the road and get all of them. We understand the importance of each and every game, but it's going to have to translate into better play at home, especially.”
The Spurs had a season-high 19 turnovers and a season low in points against the Magic.
“Energy could have been a little better at the beginning,” Gasol said. “I think we fought back and had pretty good intensity, but they were just disrupting our offense.”
Dallas visited San Antonio on Nov. 21, though the contest hardly resembled what fans have grown accustomed to when the Spurs and Mavericks hook up. Even with their current rosters, San Antonio's 96-91 victory was a mashup of player combinations and rotations.
The Spurs rested Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge, while Dallas was without Nowitzki and Deron Williams. Kawhi Leonard scored 24 to lead San Antonio.
The Spurs own the series in recent years against their longtime in-state rivals. San Antonio won six straight and 20 of the last 24 regular-season meetings with the Mavericks.