The Dallas Mavericks finally got back on track following a rough start, but now there’s real concern they won’t even get the chance to defend their NBA title.
If Dallas does make another playoff push, first-year Mav Lamar Odom won’t be along for the ride.
The Mavericks go for a 16th consecutive home win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, a day after announcing Odom’s season in Dallas is done.
After winning the franchise’s first NBA championship, Dallas (31-26) opened 2011-12 by losing three straight and four of five.
The Mavericks recovered from their championship hangover and climbed to fourth in the Western Conference with a season-best six-game run Feb. 8-17, but they’ve gone 11-15 since and are clinging to one of the final three playoffs spots.
“I’m not a big watcher of the standings, but for anybody that is, it brings to the forefront the urgency of the situation,” coach Rick Carlisle said following Saturday’s 94-89 loss at Memphis.
Before opening a four-game trip, Dallas will try to avoid a third consecutive loss and second in a row at home.
The Mavericks will have to do so without Odom, who Monday was placed on the inactive list - where he’ll remain for the rest of the season. Odom averaged career lows of 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in just over 20 minutes a game while shooting 35.2 percent.
After being acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers shortly before the season - Odom would have gone to New Orleans as part of a trade for Chris Paul had the league not nixed that deal - the veteran forward has been unable to fit into Dallas’ system.
The Mavericks, who called up Kelenna Azubuike from the D-League on Monday, are not expected to waive last season’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“I’m done talking about (Odom),” Nowitzki said following Saturday’s loss.
With that distraction behind them, the Mavericks can focus on extending a regular-season home winning streak over Sacramento (19-38) that began in January 2004.
Dallas won 99-60 in the Kings’ last visit to American Airlines Center on Jan. 14. It was the fewest points ever allowed by the Mavericks, and Sacramento’s 23 first-half points were a franchise low.
The Kings ended a 10-game skid in this series with a 110-97 home win March 9, but they enter this contest with just two wins in their last 11 games.
They dropped their fourth in a row Sunday, 104-87 to Houston, as injuries to Marcus Thornton (bruised left calf) and Francisco Garcia (concussion) forced coach Keith Smart to give rookie Jimmer Fredette his first start since Jan. 31. Fredette finished with 17 points but was unable to contain Courtney Lee, who scored 17 of his 25 in the opening 12 minutes as Sacramento fell behind by 11.
“We’ve got guys that are normally in the rotation, trying to come in, trying to play frontline teams, NBA players who are starters on other teams,” Smart told the league’s official website. “… But you know, you’ve got to fight through it and we will fight through it.”
Thornton could return as the Kings open this three-game trip after missing the last four. Garcia is questionable, as is John Salmons, who has missed eight straight with a sore hip.
Whoever is on the court needs to take care of the ball and make free throws. Sacramento has committed 41 turnovers in the last two games while hitting just 39 of 65 from the foul line.
DeMarcus Cousins has missed nine of 15 free throws during that stretch and has averaged 10.7 points over his last three since scoring a career-high 41 last Tuesday against Phoenix.
The Kings are a conference-worst 5-23 on the road.