Dallas (55-25) at Houston (42-38)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Monday, Apr 11, 2011 Tipoff: 8:30 pm EDT Mon Apr 11, 2011

The race in the Western Conference is getting very interesting, and the Dallas Mavericks are looking to take advantage.

The Mavericks will try to end a three-game road skid and continue their push for home-court advantage through the first two rounds Monday night when they meet the Houston Rockets, who could be without two starters.

Dallas (55-25) is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 2 seed, and those teams are one game ahead of Oklahoma City with two games left. The Thunder handed the defending NBA champions their fifth straight loss Sunday, 120-106.

Dallas was also struggling down the stretch by losing four straight before winning 107-96 over the Clippers on Friday and 115-90 over Phoenix on Sunday. The victories have helped Dallas regain its confidence.

“We’re building up steam, building up momentum,” guard Jason Terry(notes) said. “That’s what you want to do. … For us, it’s about rhythm, it’s about flow - how we move the ball offensively, how we fly down defensively.”

Terry and J.J. Barea(notes) seemed to have resolved their differences from a run-in during a timeout Friday night. The guards were on the court together late in the first quarter Sunday, and combined for 32 points off the bench against the Suns.

“Things happen in the heat of the battle,” Terry said. “Things that happen off the court, you have to live with and deal with. I’ve been the emotional leader of this team since I became a Maverick. That’s not going to change. We’ve just got to channel it in the right direction.”

The Mavs have won 55 games for the seventh time in 10 seasons.

“I don’t know that our team is the kind to lose confidence, but winning is always going to put a more positive vibe in your locker room,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re still plugging away.”

Dallas is seeking to sweep four games from Houston (42-38) for the first time since 2002-03. It will be easier to accomplish if Luis Scola(notes) and Kyle Lowry(notes) do not play for the Rockets after they sat out Saturday’s 99-78 victory over the Clippers.

Scola, second on the team with 18.3 points per game, has a sore left knee while Lowry has a sore left foot. Both are day to day.

Being short-handed Saturday didn’t hurt Houston. Six players reached double figures in points, with double-doubles by Chuck Hayes(notes) and Goran Dragic(notes).

“Since the break, we’ve been playing great basketball, great team energy basketball,” Hayes said. “You can see it in our play. You can see it in our chemistry and you can see it in just how much fun we are having.

Coach Rick Adelman earned his 944th career victory, tying former Houston coach Bill Fitch for eighth all-time.

If Scola and Lowry are unavailable, more of the scoring burden will fall on Kevin Martin(notes). He’s averaging a team-high 23.4 points - and 27.0 in his last 10 games.

The Mavs, though, have done a good job of limiting Martin to 20.3 points on 37.8 percent shooting in three games this season.

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Monday, Apr 11