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Suns-Mavericks Preview

AP - Sports

While the odds are against them, the Dallas Mavericks are still alive in the Western Conference playoff race.

A matchup against the struggling Phoenix Suns should only help their chances.

The Mavericks go for a four-game season sweep and 11th consecutive home win over the Suns, who try to avoid an 11th straight loss Wednesday night.

Occupying 10th place in the West, Dallas (38-39) needs lots of help if it is going to make a 13th consecutive playoff appearance. The Mavericks sit 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot with five to go.

"It's important for us to finish the season on a good note and we have the next five games to do that," center Chris Kaman said.

Dallas returns home seeking a third consecutive victory after winning 96-91 at Portland on Sunday. Kaman led the way with a season-high 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Shawn Marion scored 20 on 10-of-14 shooting.

The Mavericks, though, had to sweat things out after their 26-point lead was cut to three with 39 seconds left.

"It is what it is, man. We came out victorious and every win counts right now. Period," Marion said. "As long as you get the W at this time, we need it. We're going to see what happens with the race to the finish line with the playoffs, but we're one more game away from being .500."

Dallas played the entire fourth quarter without Dirk Nowitzki, who was held out due to a sore foot but says he'll suit up Wednesday.

"I'll be fine," he said. "We've got five games left and a huge chance to see .500 for the first time since probably December, so I'll definitely play."

The Mavericks surely like their chances of getting back to the break-even mark for the first time since mid-December with Phoenix (23-55) coming to town. The Suns, losers in 11 of 12 in this series, have been outscored by an average of 12.3 points during a 10-game skid at Dallas.

Phoenix's 10-game losing streak overall is its longest since dropping a franchise-worst 13 in a row to open 1996-97. The Suns are 2-16 since losing Marcin Gortat to a foot injury March 6, including a loss that night.

Sitting at the bottom of the West, Phoenix saw its woes continue Tuesday in a 101-98 defeat at Houston. The Suns went toe-to-toe with the playoff-bound Rockets but would lose when Jermaine O'Neal was called for goaltending on James Harden's last-second 3-pointer.

Harden's shot bounced high off the rim, and O'Neal tipped the ball as it came down just after the buzzer sounded.

"I've never seen a game finish in a weirder way," said O'Neal, who shot 2 for 12.

Luis Scola had 28 points and Goran Dragic added 15 with 10 assists for the Suns, whose last three defeats have been by a combined 10 points.

"We can deal with these losses, it's the blowout ones that we play selfish and don't play together, and those are the ones that are frustrating," forward Jared Dudley said.

The Suns will be looking to add to O.J. Mayo's recent struggles. Averaging 15.8 points, Mayo has posted just 7.8 per game on 31.7 percent shooting over the last six. He has, however, scored at least 20 in two of three matchups against Phoenix this season.

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