Dallas (46-23) at New Orleans (33-38)

Partly Cloudy Currently: New Orleans, LA
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Mon Mar 22, 2010
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During the Dallas Mavericks’ recent 13-game winning streak, they beat the New Orleans Hornets despite struggling in the second half.

Their inability to close games out has been a problem the last two games as well.

That is just one concern for the Mavericks, who may have to deal with the return of All-Star point guard Chris Paul(notes) - a game-time decision - when they visit the struggling Hornets on Monday night.

Dallas (46-23) won 13 in a row Feb. 17-March 10, including a 108-100 victory over New Orleans on Feb. 28. The Mavericks led by 25 in the game, but allowed the Hornets to pull within four before eventually holding them off.

“We made this a lot harder than we should have,” Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki(notes) said after scoring 36 points.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks have seen some more close games since, and they enter Monday having lost two of three. On Saturday against Boston, Dallas led by seven early in the fourth quarter before the offense faltered en route to a 102-93 loss.

Nowitzki scored 12 of his 37 points in the final quarter, but his teammates provided only nine more.

The loss came three days after the Mavericks nearly blew a 25-point lead against Chicago before holding on for a 113-106 victory. In the game prior, Dallas’ streak was snapped with a stunning 128-94 loss to the Knicks.

“It’s frustrating,” said Jason Terry(notes), who scored 18 points against the Celtics. “These are the games we’ve been winning.”

The good news for Terry and the Mavericks is that three of their next four games are against teams with losing records and they still have a comfortable lead atop the Southwest Division.

For the Hornets (33-38), meanwhile, their window to make a move in the Western Conference is on the verge of closing completely and a challenging five-game homestand may not help even with Paul’s return.

Along with Dallas, New Orleans will face Cleveland, Portland, the Lakers and Washington during this stretch. With 11 games remaining, the Hornets are 9 1/2 games behind Portland for the final playoff spot.

New Orleans seems unlikely to finish strong, however, given it has lost 10 of 12 and returns home after a 1-4 road trip, which the Hornets closed with a 106-86 loss to Utah on Saturday. Coming off a 93-80 loss to Denver on Thursday, New Orleans was held to fewer than 90 points for the seventh time this season and third this month.

Paul remained out for a 25th straight game and Peja Stojakovic(notes) (groin) missed his seventh in a row. The Hornets also lost David West(notes) when he was called for a flagrant foul late in the first quarter.

“That took a big part of our offense away, obviously David’s scoring and his facilitating as a passer,” coach Jeff Bower said. “It forced us to look in a lot of other directions and we didn’t have a successful answer for that tonight.”

Paul could see action after missing nearly two months with a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury that required arthroscopic surgery. If he doesn’t play for the first time since Jan. 29 against Dallas, he could return Wednesday at home against Cleveland.

Dallas has won both home games against the Hornets, but lost 114-107 in overtime in New Orleans on Nov. 4. The Mavericks have lost five straight road games to the Hornets.

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Monday, Mar 22