The Dallas Mavericks are not playing the kind of basketball it takes to win at Arco Arena.
Riding their longest losing streak in nearly four years, the Mavericks visit the team with the league’s best home record as they face the surging Sacramento Kings on Christmas Day.
This is the first meeting between the teams since last season’s Western Conference semifinals, in which Dallas won one game at Arco before taking Game 7 on its home floor.
The Mavericks would not have emerged victorious in that series if they were playing the way they are now. Dallas has dropped four straight, including Tuesday’s 97-88 defeat Portland, for its longest slide since losing six in a row from Feb. 29-March 9, 2000.
Dallas, which surrenders a league-high 98.1 points per game, continued to struggle on the defensive end as the Trail Blazers shot 52.6 percent from the field (40-for-76).
“When things are going poor for you, it bites you in the behind,” Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. “Stuff like offensive rebounds off of free throws. We just aren’t playing well enough to win lately.”
The Mavs have given up 109.3 points per game during the skid and need to show a stronger defense against the Kings, who have won four straight, lead the league with a 104.9 scoring average and are 15-1 at Arco Arena.
“We know that we are playing good basketball right now but we know that it is a dangerous game for us,” Kings center Vlade Divac said. “It’s Christmas Day and we will put in a good effort.”
Sacramento, however, will be missing leading scorer Peja Stojakovic, who was suspended for one game for improper contact with an official in Tuesday’s 114-97 victory over Memphis. Stojakovic had a career-high 41 points as the Kings erased a 17-point first-half deficit.
The Mavericks’ All-Star forward from Europe, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from his worst outing of the season.
Dirk Nowitzki, bothered by sore ankles, had six points on 3-of-12 shooting to go with five turnovers in 42 minutes against the Blazers. He leads Dallas with 19.3 points per game.
Nowitzki often will be matched up with Brad Miller, who had his fifth straight double-double Tuesday with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
Sacramento has won 16 of 18, including five straight at home, but Dallas has won four of its last six regular-season games at Sacramento.
The Mavs, however, have lost six of seven away from home and their 3-10 road record is easily the worst of any team in the league over .500.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 23): Mavericks - 4th place (tied), 3 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Kings - 1st place (tied), Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 18.7 ppg; Walker, 9.6 rpg; Nash, 7.6 apg. Kings - Stojakovic, 24.9 ppg; Miller, 10.7 rpg; Bibby, 5.6 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Kings, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: May 17; Mavericks, 112-99. At Dallas, Nowitzki had 30 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Mavs into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1988.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 3-10 on the road; Kings - 15-1 at home.