Denver (47-30) at Dallas (53-24)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Wednesday, Apr 6, 2011 Tipoff: 8:30 pm EDT Wed Apr 6, 2011

The Dallas Mavericks will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but their confidence isn’t particularly high as the postseason approaches.

With the team struggling against the conference’s elite, the Mavericks will try for a series split at home against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Dallas (53-24) was trying to catch the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers for one of the top two spots in the West, but those hopes took a big hit in the last week as the Mavericks dropped three straight to close a six-game road trip.

Dallas is two games ahead of Oklahoma City for the third seed in the West.

Particularly frustrating was the team’s poor defense to close out the stretch. The Mavericks gave up 100 or more points in three of their last four games and they closed the trip with a 104-96 loss at Portland on Sunday after allowing the Trail Blazers to shoot 53.4 percent.

“We need to get back home and get re-energized,” Jason Terry(notes) said.

Shawn Marion(notes) had 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) added 16, sitting out the final 4:20. Tyson Chandler(notes) missed the game with a sore lower back. He is day-to-day.

Dallas has split its last 16 games, but most concerning is that it has lost eight straight to teams in the Western Conference playoff race.

“Worried a bit much,” Nowitzki said when asked if he’s concerned about where the Mavericks are as the season winds down. “Obviously this is a little late to be going down. Definitely disappointed. But it could be worse - this could be the playoffs.”

Dallas has lost two of three to Denver (47-30) while giving up an average of 108.3 points. This will be the first time the teams have met since the Nuggets dealt Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Chauncey Billups(notes) in February.

Denver’s confidence has been high since that trade, but it is looking to bounce back after having its six-game winning streak snapped in a 101-94 loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Denver had a three-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but the Thunder went on a 16-0 run early in the fourth to take control. It was the first time in five games the Nuggets gave up more than 94 points.

“We haven’t played as average as we played at times today in a long time,” coach George Karl said.

Ty Lawson(notes) finished with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting while Danilo Gallinari(notes) had 17 points and six rebounds. Denver was outrebounded 50-41.

It was only the Nuggets’ fifth loss in the last 21 games, but a costly one as they fell four games behind Oklahoma City for fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round with five games remaining.

Depth could be a concern as Denver prepares for the playoffs. The Nuggets were without Aaron Afflalo (hamstring) and Chris Anderson (ankle) Tuesday while Timofey Mozgov(notes) left in the first quarter after spraining his left knee and ankle.

Afflalo has been ruled out for Wednesday while the statuses of the other two are uncertain.

Denver has won three of four at Dallas.

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