New Orleans (10-12) at Dallas (17-7)

  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Mon Dec 14, 2009
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The Dallas Mavericks needed one of Dirk Nowitzki’s(notes) most prolific nights of the season to earn a third straight win in their most recent game.

Nowitzki’s quietest game of 2009-10 resulted in an overtime loss to the New Orleans Hornets last month.

The Mavericks and their star forward aim for a victory over their Southwest Division rivals Monday night, when the Hornets try again for their first road win over a quality opponent.

Nowitzki attempted a season-high 34 shots Saturday night against Charlotte. The last one ensured victory, as his jumper with 1.8 second left in overtime gave the Mavericks a 98-97 win.

Half of Nowitzki’s 36 points came in the fourth quarter and overtime after he had begun by missing nine of his first 10 shots. He topped 35 points for just the third time this season.

“The definition of a franchise player is one who wants the responsibility for winning or losing,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He wants the ball in his hands when the game is being decided, and the only thing he’s thinking about when he gets the ball is finding a way to win the game.”

Nowitzki is averaging a career-best 27.3 points. That production is a big reason why the Mavericks (17-7) lead the Southwest one season after seven losses in their first nine games put them in an early hole.

New Orleans found a way to neutralize Nowitzki on Nov. 4, holding him to a season-low 12 points and 4-of-15 shooting. Dallas still nearly won behind 35 points from Jason Terry(notes), but the Hornets earned a 114-107 victory in overtime thanks to a season-high 39-point effort from star point guard Chris Paul(notes).

New Orleans (10-12) has since dealt with a coaching change - replacing Byron Scott with Jeff Bower - and an injury to Paul, who missed eight games with an ankle problem. As a result, they face an uphill climb in their bid for a third straight playoff appearance.

The Hornets won the first three games following Paul’s return, but that streak ended Friday when they were outscored 60-34 in the second half of a 113-96 home loss to the New York Knicks.

“Our defense was unbelievable. We’ve got to change that,” Paul said. “We’ve had a few games where our defense was good. (Friday) it was horrible.”

The bigger problems for New Orleans have come on the road, where the team is 2-9 with the only victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota. In their 11 road games, the Hornets’ opponents are averaging 107.3 points and shooting 51.1 percent from the field.

Their 97-96 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday snapped a five-game road losing streak.

The Hornets have won once in their last 15 visits to Dallas, with Paul’s triple-double sparking a 104-97 victory Jan. 14.

Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Paul has averaged 30.9 points and 10.3 assists in nine games against the Mavs.

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Monday, Dec 14