The Dallas Mavericks are enduring their worst stretch of the season, and a visit from the Charlotte Bobcats would appear to give them a good chance to get back on track.
Charlotte, though, is playing pretty well on the road, and it just took the two-time defending NBA champions down to the wire on their own court.
Dallas tries to improve to 10-0 all-time at home against the Bobcats and avoid a fifth loss in six games Tuesday night.
The Mavericks (10-8) lost two in a row for the third time this season Saturday when they fell 112-106 at home to Minnesota. Monta Ellis scored 26 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 23 for Dallas, which lost 88-87 at Atlanta on Friday night after blowing a 17-point lead in the second half and losing starting point guard Jose Calderon to a bone bruise on his right ankle.
Calderon, averaging 11.1 points and 4.9 assists, didn't play against the Timberwolves and will be a game-time decision Tuesday.
"We're going to learn about our team right now," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Lose four out of five, have a tough loss like last night and then another tough one like tonight - it's going to test the togetherness and the collective will."
Carlisle is upset with his team's defensive play. The Mavericks rank near the bottom of the league with 103.0 points allowed per game and a 47.0 defensive field-goal percentage.
"A lot of work defensively," Carlisle told the team's official website while summing up Monday's practice. "You know, keeping people out of the paint is a real priority right now, and we got hurt with that badly against Minnesota. It's been our most consistent challenge defensively, and we're working hard on that. It's got to be a collective group challenge that we take on."
Dallas hasn't had much trouble stopping Charlotte (8-10) when it comes to town. The Mavericks have held the Bobcats to an average of 90.4 points on 42.1 percent shooting in taking all nine meetings, and they were 16-0 in the series before a 101-97 overtime loss Nov. 10, 2012.
Charlotte visited Miami on Sunday and owned the lead for a stretch of 23:21 before the Heat went ahead with 1:20 left and held on for a 99-98 win.
Kemba Walker scored 27 points, Gerald Henderson had 17 and Al Jefferson finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for Charlotte.
"It's disappointing because I felt we had them. We outplayed them," Henderson said. "They just came up with the plays at the end of the game that championship teams tend to do."
Charlotte fell to 4-4 on the road after going 6-35 away from home last season, and the Bobcats are one of the top defensive teams in the league with 91.8 points allowed per game while holding opponents to 42.9 percent shooting.
However, they couldn't stop Miami from scoring 34 points in the final 8:20.
"It started with us," coach Steve Clifford said. "Instead of playing possession by possession, we made mistakes. They started going to the basket and we couldn't get them under control."
Nowitzki didn't play in either matchup against Charlotte last season after averaging 28.6 points in the five previous meetings.