The Phoenix Suns’ fast start has cooled considerably since the beginning of December, largely because their run-and-gun offense has begun to shown signs of slowing down.
That lull, however, has been nothing compared with what the Dallas Mavericks have experienced in their past two games.
The scoring-starved Mavericks look to avoid losing a third straight game for the first time in nearly 11 months Tuesday night when they host the Suns, whose road-heavy schedule seems to finally be taking its toll.
Dallas scored 104.1 points per game during its 14-5 start, not quite up to Phoenix’s 110.2-point average during that same span but enough to give it an early lead in the highly competitive Southwest Division.
The Mavericks (14-7), though, have seen their accuracy fade in their past two games. Dallas shot a season-low 35.2 percent in a 98-82 loss at Memphis on Friday, and connected on 37.3 percent of its season-low 67 shots a night later in an 80-75 home loss to Atlanta.
“We might be in a little bit of a funk right now,” forward Shawn Marion(notes) told the NBA’s official Web site. “The ball wasn’t going in for us like there was a little bit of a lid on there for us. … We didn’t capitalize on anything.”
Dallas hasn’t lost three straight since a four-game skid from Jan. 9-14.
Dirk Nowitzki(notes) scored 32 points Saturday after being held to 16 in Memphis, but the Mavericks’ biggest offensive issue is finding more help beyond the former MVP and guard Jason Terry(notes), who averaged 17.9 points off the bench before making his starting debut Saturday.
Josh Howard’s(notes) eventual return from ankle surgery should solve that, but until he does Dallas is stuck with rookie Rodrigue Beaubois(notes), J.J. Barea or Terry starting alongside Jason Kidd(notes) in the backcourt.
Marion, who spent the first eight-and-a-half years of his career in Phoenix, isn’t adding much offensive punch in the frontcourt, either. The four-time All-Star is averaging 11.9 points - 6.0 during the two-game skid - and hasn’t scored more than 15 since Nov. 7.
The Suns were held to 99 and 90 in blowout losses at New York and Cleveland, respectively, and didn’t improve Sunday against the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Lakers. A 10-point halftime lead grew to 21 by the end of the third quarter, and the Lakers went on to win 108-88.
“We’ve got some ground to make up,” said Nash, who’s averaging a career high-tying 3.8 turnovers. “We’ve done well, but we’ve got a lot of work to do before we’re in they’re class, so it’s OK.”
Phoenix dropped to 8-6 on the road compared to 7-0 at home.
Nash is second on the team in scoring (17.0 points per game) behind Amare Stoudemire (19.0), but Phoenix is better off when the two-time MVP is distributing. The Suns are 9-0 when Nash has 11 or more assists and 6-6 when he doesn’t.
Both teams figure to break out of their offensive funks considering their four meetings last season featured an average of 233.0 points. Nowitzki scored 30.0 points per game in leading Dallas to three wins while Nash averaged 16.0 points and 10.8 assists against his former club.