Strong defense has keyed a couple of long winning streaks for the Dallas Mavericks.
After a strong performance against the NBA’s premier offensive team, the Mavericks look to extend an eight-game overall winning streak and win their 20th straight against the New Orleans Hornets when they meet Saturday night.
Dallas (22-7) hasn’t lost since a matchup with Utah on Dec. 11, holding opponents to 88.9 points per game during its run. The Mavericks rank among the league’s leaders in scoring defense, allowing 92.7 points per game on the season.
Dallas is coming off perhaps its most impressive defensive effort of 2006-07, a 101-99 win Thursday night over high-scoring Phoenix. It was just the fifth time the Suns have been held under 100 points this season.
The Mavericks will now try to continue their success against the Hornets (12-17), who have failed to reach 80 points in each of the last three meetings. New Orleans’ last victory against Dallas was 104-99 on Nov. 17, 1999, about three years before the Hornets moved from Charlotte.
The Mavericks have already defeated the Hornets twice this season, holding them to 76.0 points per game. New Orleans coach Byron Scott is 0-17 all-time against the Mavericks.
Dallas, which has the NBA’s record, is hardly satisfied.
“Definitely, we’ve got a long way to go,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. “Definitely inspired by the defensive performance we put out there … against a great Phoenix team. But like I said, we’ve still got a long way to go.”
After scoring 32 of his season-high 35 points by the midpoint of Thursday’s third quarter, Terry hit a clutch 3-pointer then set up Dirk Nowitzki’s game-winning 19-footer with 1.3 seconds left.
Terry, though, is averaging just 9.5 points while shooting 29 percent (7-for-24) from the field against the Hornets this season.
Mavericks center DeSagana Diop’s status for Saturday’s game is uncertain after he left with 9:37 remaining against Phoenix after sustaining a cut over his left eye. Dallas said Diop, who had to be helped from the court and into the locker room, was experiencing dizziness. He did return to the bench in the final minute.
New Orleans snapped a three-game losing streak with a 99-89 win over Denver on Friday night.
The Hornets are missing four of their top five offensive players. They’re expected to again be without starters Peja Stojakovic (back), David West (elbow) and Chris Paul (ankle) and top reserve Bobby Jackson (cracked rib) for this contest.
New Orleans is scoring a league-worst 90.6 points per game.
Swingman Rasual Butler had four steals and center Tyson Chandler had four blocks as New Orleans held Denver to 37 percent shooting from the field. The Hornets had given up 100 points or more in each of their previous three games.
“We tried to … make their guys shoot jump shots,” said Scott, whose team improved to 4-10 during December. “I wanted us to contest their shots a little more. We needed to be a little bit closer to those guys.”