Jazz-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks are slowly climbing back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

The Utah Jazz are aiding that ascent.

Dallas tries to Utah for ninth place in the West on Sunday night when the Jazz try to prevent their first nine-game road skid in 31 seasons.

The Mavericks (33-36), who are tied with Portland, have split their last six games since a 4-0 run, but they've moved with one game of the Jazz (34-35), who have dropped three straight and 11 of 14.

Dallas still has work to do to extend its playoff streak to 13 - it is 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers - but a 104-94 victory over Boston on Friday was a step in the right direction after opening its season-high six-game homestand with a 113-96 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday.

"It's good. Any win is good right now," said forward Shawn Marion, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds after missing eight games with a strained left calf. "You know, we're just trying to gradually get to that .500 mark right now. We've got to keep taking these steps in that direction, and if we can knock down this homestand it can be a good thing for us."

The Mavericks have lost twice in Salt Lake City this season - 113-94 on Oct. 31 and 100-94 on Jan. 7 - but they've owned the Jazz in Dallas, winning four straight and 18 of the last 21 regular-season matchups.

That's bad news for a Utah team riding its worst road losing streak since 2005. The Jazz will try to salvage the final game of their three-city Texas trip - and avoid a season high-tying fourth consecutive loss - after falling 104-97 in overtime to West-leading San Antonio on Friday.

"We played a tough team on their home floor and had a chance to win for the first time in a long time," said center Al Jefferson, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double. "The energy and the effort was there for all 48 minutes plus. If we continue to play the way we did tonight for the rest of these 12 games, we have a great chance.''

The Jazz have to feel good about starting a stretch of eight of 10 at home on Monday, but they're in danger of dropping nine straight outside Salt Lake City for the first time since a 17-game skid spanning Nov. 21, 1981-Feb. 6, 1982.

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had a team-best 20 points on Jan. 7 after missing the previous matchup following knee surgery, is averaging 33.1 points and 8.0 rebounds in his last eight home games versus Utah. He finished with 40 points in the Jazz's last visit, a Mavericks 102-96 victory on March 3, 2012.

Nowitzki also scored 40 - matching a season high - in a 123-121 triple-overtime road loss on April 16 that ended Dallas' seven-game win streak between the teams.

Utah's current three-game run over the Mavericks is its longest since reeling off 12 straight victories from Feb. 15, 1997-Feb. 24, 2000.

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