After a rough start, the Dallas Mavericks are finally looking the part of the defending NBA champions.
The Sacramento Kings are unlikely to slow them down.
The Mavericks go for their 15th straight home win over the Kings on Saturday night.
Dallas has won four in a row as it makes its 0-3 start an increasingly distant memory. The Mavericks (7-5) defeated Milwaukee 102-76 at home Friday, leading by as many as 30 points while holding the Bucks to 37.2 percent shooting and connecting on 52 percent of their own field-goal attempts.
Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 11 points in 22 minutes, became the 23rd NBA player to score 23,000 before he and the rest of the Dallas starters rested the entire fourth quarter with the game’s outcome no longer in doubt.
“Milestones are going to be great when I look back on my career in 10 or 15 years,” Nowitzki said. “But as of right now, I’m trying to help this team, and franchise, win as many games as I can. We’ve been playing better. That’s all I’m worried about right now.”
After giving up 100 points in each of its first three losses, the Mavericks have allowed an average of 86.9 in the nine games since. They scored 33 points off 19 Milwaukee turnovers Friday, also outrebounding the Bucks 43-36.
“On defense, we’re doing a good job of holding each other accountable and we feel like we can always do better at not letting the other team get in a flow,” said Vince Carter, who scored a season-high 16 points.
The Mavericks haven’t played great defense against Sacramento in recent meetings, but they haven’t had to. Though the Kings have reached 100 points in seven of the last nine games in the series, Dallas has won all nine. The Mavericks have scored 114.7 points per game during their 14-game winning streak versus the Kings.
Sacramento (4-8) might have trouble keeping up with Dallas on both ends of the court. The Kings, who are scoring a Western Conference-low 93.0 points per game while allowing an average of 102.3 - also worst in the West - suffered their third loss in four games Friday, falling 103-89 at Houston to drop to 1-5 on the road in 2011-12.
Tyreke Evans scored 27 points, but the rest of the starting lineup combined for only 20.
DeMarcus Cousins managed four points and four rebounds as his streak of four consecutive double-doubles ended. He shot 1 of 7, and admitted after the game that he was feeling under the weather.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Cousins said. “I couldn’t stop coughing and I can’t seem to get over it.”
If Cousins plays Saturday, he’ll look to have another good game against the Mavericks. He averaged 17.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in three games versus Dallas last season.