Kings-Mavericks Preview


The Dallas Mavericks' playoff push has been stuck in neutral lately despite the team being in the midst of its longest homestand in franchise history.

The Mavericks have split their first six of eight consecutive games at American Airlines Center and blew a sizable lead in the fourth quarter of their latest game there. They'll try to bounce Saturday night by adding to their remarkable home dominance over the Sacramento Kings.

With its inconsistent efforts at home, Dallas (43-30) has fallen from seventh in the Western Conference and 1 1/2 games in front of the final playoff berth to one-half game behind Memphis. The Grizzlies are idle Saturday after losing for just the sixth time in 22 games Friday.

The Suns, one game ahead of the Mavericks, are also idle after winning their sixth in a row.

"It's basically the next game becomes the most important game of the year," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's just how it is going to be, every one down the stretch."

The Mavericks missed a chance to keep pace in that race Thursday by squandering an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 109-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We didn't get the stops we needed in the clutch," forward Jae Crowder said. "We knew they were going to make one more run late. We didn't get the stops we needed to close the game."

The Mavericks kept the Kings in check long enough Jan. 31 to rally from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter for a 107-103 win. Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 34 points in Dallas' 19th consecutive home victory against Sacramento (25-47).

The Mavericks have won 16 of 18 overall matchups and split this season's series. They fell 112-97 in Sacramento on Dec. 9, but the Kings haven't won in Dallas since Feb. 27, 2003.

Only Golden State's 30-game skid in San Antonio is longer among the NBA's active road losing streaks against one opponent.

Sacramento enters this game having dropped eight of 11 and six of seven away from home. The Kings played for the second straight night without point guard Isaiah Thomas (bruised right quad) in a 94-81 loss at Oklahoma City on Friday.

Leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins, 10th in the league with 22.2 points per game, finished with four on 2-of-8 shooting. Rudy Gay, averaging 19.8, had seven while missing eight of 11 shots.

"The toughest position to lose is your point guard, just because he runs your team, and there were times tonight where obviously, we didn't look like an organized basketball team," coach Michael Malone said.

Cousins had 32 points and 19 rebounds in the win over the Mavericks in December but sat out the loss in Dallas because of a sprained left ankle. Gay had 35 points in that road defeat, his second-most in any game this season.

Thomas was averaging 24.0 points and 6.3 assists in his last three matchups with Dallas, but his status is unclear for this season. Derrick Williams had a career-high 31 points in the home victory over the Mavericks but might sit out again with an illness.

"We don't have a lot of bodies, so the guys who are able to play need to play with more of a sense of urgency and greater effort," Malone said.

Dallas' Monta Ellis is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games against Sacramento.