The grind of the NBA season seemed to take its toll on the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans in bad performances in the second half of back-to-back games.
These Southwest Division rivals hope a much-needed day off will help them turn in better efforts in this back-to-back set against each other that begins Friday night in New Orleans.
Dallas (20-16) fell 112-90 at San Antonio on Wednesday for its third loss in four games. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-low eight points on 3-of-14 shooting for the Mavericks, who trailed by seven at halftime before allowing 67 second-half points.
"I mean, it was ugly from the get-go," Nowitzki told the Mavericks' official website. "Offensively, we couldn't get any bounces and couldn't get anything to go but kind of hung in there, surprisingly."
New Orleans (15-19) lost its third straight Wednesday as it returned home from a four-game trip to fall 102-96 to Washington. The game was more lopsided than the final score indicated since the Pelicans outscored the Wizards by 15 in the fourth quarter.
Coach Monty Williams was not happy with the effort, pointing out that his team is full of "young guys."
"Being tired is not an excuse, not 30-plus games in," Williams said. "Maybe 50 to 60 but not right now."
Each of these teams was missing a key player - Shawn Marion for Dallas and leading scorer Ryan Anderson for New Orleans.
Marion sat out with a bruised right shoulder suffered in Tuesday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He is day to day while Anderson (19.8 points per game) is out indefinitely with a herniated disc.
The Pelicans will now be missing another important member of the lineup, as starting point guard Jrue Holiday is sidelined indefinitely with a stress fracture in his tibia. It's unclear when or how the injury occurred.
Holiday played 29 minutes Wednesday and made three of 11 shots for eight points to go with three assists, three rebounds and three steals. He's averaging 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds, but has totaled 24 points in his last four games.
These teams also meet Saturday in Dallas. Nowitzki scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks took the first matchup 100-97 at New Orleans on Dec. 4.
The Pelicans didn't have Anthony Davis in that one due to a broken hand. The second-year forward is back now and has 43 points and 19 rebounds over his last two games.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in each of his last two games against Dallas. He helped New Orleans post a 58-38 edge on the glass in last month's meeting.
Controlling the backboards figures to be a priority for the Mavs, who were outrebounded 55-32 by the Spurs.
''The rebounding killed us all night long,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. ''We were down 36-18 at halftime and that's just not good enough.''
The Pelicans are starting a four-game stretch against Southwest foes, with three at home. Williams sounded like he wasn't happy about the crowd against the Wizards.
"We're going to be at home, we need our crowd behind us, not a guy screaming at me the whole game about what I should be doing," Williams said. "That's just silly."
What should be as big a concern to him is his defense, which is allowing teams to shoot 48.5 percent during this losing streak. The Pelicans are the league's fifth-worst team for the season at 46.3 percent.
"We are picking up bad habits," guard Austin Rivers said. "When we get down six or seven, we act like the game is over and the lead gets worse. That's not coaching. That's on us."