The Dallas Mavericks may have the best record in the NBA, but even they are susceptible to the rigors of the demanding NBA schedule.
The Mavericks can clinch the Southwest Division as they try to bounce back from their worst defensive performance of the season when they meet the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Dallas (61-12) fell 126-104 at Phoenix on Sunday in the opener of this three-game trip. The Mavericks missed a chance to become the first NBA team to post a fourth winning streak of at least 10 games in a season, allowing the Suns to shoot 64.8 percent - a season high by a Dallas opponent.
“They had a good strategy, a good game plan,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. “They executed, and we never left the hotel.”
The game was Dallas’ 13th in 22 days, and it hasn’t had two straight days off during the stretch. The Mavericks will finally get two in a row off after Tuesday’s contest.
“We need a practice,” Johnson said. “We haven’t practiced in a while because of our schedule, a really good hard practice. We need a good practice to clean up a few things, and it showed today.”
Dallas’ magic number to clinch the best record in the NBA remained at four, although its magic number to capture the division was reduced to one when San Antonio lost at Indiana on Sunday. The Suns became only the second team to beat the Mavericks twice this season, joining Golden State.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points but shot 6-of-18 for the Mavs, whose poor defense allowed Phoenix to make 12 of 21 3-pointers. Four Suns reached the 20-point mark.
“I’m the point guard, and I set the tone,” said Jason Terry, who had trouble guarding Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa most of the game. “I put the responsibility on myself. We have a game coming up against Sacramento, so we’ll put this one behind us and get back on track.”
Dallas is seeking to sweep the four-game series from Sacramento (30-42) and win twice at Arco Arena for the first time in five seasons.
Mavs center Erick Dampier missed Sunday’s game after straining his right shoulder in a 105-103 home victory over New York on Friday. He’s listed as day-to-day.
Bibby is shooting just under 40 percent, the worst mark of his nine-year career. He’s the Kings’ third-leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, but the point guard is also averaging a career-low 4.9 assists.
His numbers are even worse against Dallas this season. Bibby is averaging 10.3 points on 36.4 percent shooting while missing all seven 3-pointers in the three losses.
Sacramento has reached the playoffs eight straight times, but is 5 1/2 games out of the eighth and final spot with only 10 games left.