Phoenix, which has adjusted well thus far to the absence of injured power forward Amare Stoudemire, had reeled off a season-high nine straight wins before dropping consecutive games.
On Monday, the Suns failed to reach 100 points for a season-high third straight game, a 91-87 defeat to the visiting New Orleans Hornets for their first home loss in nine games.
“I thought it was a poor effort in the first quarter,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. “We just didn’t defend. They get 31 points and the rest of the time we’re trying to play catchup. And when you do that, you have a chance to lose to any team.”
Still the league leaders at 103.1 points per game, the Suns have averaged less than 88 points the last three contests—a stretch that began with an 85-81 victory Friday over the New York Knicks in their lowest-scoring game of the season.
The Suns eliminated the Mavericks in six games in last season’s Western Conference semifinals, averaging 119.2 points while shooting 48.4 percent from the field. In their last 10 meetings overall with Dallas, the Suns are averaging 115.7 points to Dallas’ 111.9.
The teams opened the season Nov. 1 in Phoenix, with the Mavericks rallying for a 111-108 double-overtime win after erasing a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
The Mavericks had won five straight overall before Monday’s 109-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dallas had three players—Dirk Nowitzki, Marquis Daniels and Jason Terry— score more than 20 points for the first time this season, but lost for just the second time after heading into the fourth quarter with the lead.
“We started off the game probably the worst we’ve started in the last 10 games,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. “We were lethargic, didn’t have any energy, didn’t move the ball.”
Nowitzki, who led the Mavericks with 27 points and 15 rebounds, is averaging 30.3 points his last six games. He had 28 points and 15 boards in the Mavs’ win in Phoenix last month.
Forward Josh Howard returned to the lineup Monday after missing eight games with an ankle injury. However, Mavs forward Keith Van Horn bruised his right hip in the second quarter against the Lakers and didn’t return. He was scheduled to have an MRI and X-ray on Tuesday.
The Suns played a franchise-high 14 home games in their first 20, but now play eight of their next 10 on the road.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 13): Suns - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, Pacific Division. Mavericks - 2nd place, 2 GB, Southwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Marion, 19.2 ppg and 11.3 rpg; Nash, 10.9 apg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 26 ppg and 9.2 rpg; Terry, 3.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 1; Mavericks 111-108 (2OT). At Phoenix, former Dallas point guard Nash led the Suns with 30 points and nine assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Suns - 4-2 on the road; Mavericks - 7-3 at home.