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Jazz-Mavericks Preview

AP - Sports

Even with Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup, the Dallas Mavericks' losing streak continues.

The Mavericks didn't need the NBA finals MVP earlier this season to continue their winning streak against the Utah Jazz.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks will try to end their season-high four-game skid Saturday night in Dallas, where the Jazz look to end a six-game skid in this series.

After leaving in the second quarter of Wednesday's 96-85 loss at Memphis with lower back tightness, Nowitzki returned Friday at New Orleans. It didn't matter, as Nowitzki scored 19 points - nearly 10 below his average - and did not shoot a free throw for just the second time this season in a 97-92 defeat to the worst club in the Western Conference.

Dallas (21-16) had won seven of nine heading into the All-Star break, but is suddenly now trying to avoid its first five-game skid since it dropped six in a row Jan. 6-17, 2011. The Mavericks are averaging 90.0 points on 41.1 percent shooting during their current slide.

"We have to fight our way out of this,'' coach Rick Carlisle said.

Nowitzki scored just 12 points in a 94-91 victory in Salt Lake City on Jan. 19, and missed a 116-101 home win over Utah on Jan. 27 - the final contest of a planned four-game hiatus to rehab a sore right knee and improve his fitness.

Having won both those contests, Dallas remains undefeated in this series since a 104-92 road loss Feb. 1, 2010.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks are also trying to prevent their first three-game home losing streak since dropping their first four at home in 2008-09.

The Jazz (17-18) make their final visit to Dallas this season on the heels of Friday's thrilling 99-98 home victory over Southeast Division-leading Miami. Point guard Devin Harris converted a 3-point play with 4.5 seconds left to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point win.

"This is a great, great win for the Jazz," said coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team had snapped a season-high four-game skid two nights earlier with a 104-83 victory over Houston. "We did a great job just hanging in there."

Now, Utah opens a season-high five-game road trip seeking better results away from home. The Jazz have dropped nine of their last 10 outside Salt Lake City, and their three road wins are the fewest in the West.

Harris' improved play gives the team some added confidence - he's averaging 15.0 points and 5.4 assists in his last five games - but the former Maverick has just 11 total points and six assists in the two games against Dallas this season.

He'll likely be matched up with Jason Kidd, who was part of the eight-player deal that sent Harris to New Jersey four years ago.

Rodrigue Beaubois will have Utah's full attention after he started in place of Vince Carter on Friday and scored a season-best 25 points with four steals.

The third-year guard Beaubois scored 17 points off the bench on Jan. 19 and made his first start of the season against the Jazz on Jan. 27, finishing with 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four blocked shots.

Veteran forward Lamar Odom had his best game of the season for Dallas that night, scoring 19 points in place of Nowitzki, and he'll surprisingly be in uniform for this contest. After Dallas initially assigned the struggling forward to the Texas Legends of the D-League for a one-game stint, it recalled him Saturday morning, looking for any sort of boost to end this four-game skid.

The Mavs have won 17 of their last 20 home meetings with Utah.

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