Nuggets-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki called his own team "old and slow" the last time the Denver Nuggets were in town.

The defending champs have shaped up since then.

Dallas goes for a season high-tying fifth straight victory Wednesday night when it hosts a Nuggets team going for its fourth consecutive road win in this series.

A day after trailing by as many as 35 points during a 105-94 season-opening loss to Miami in an NBA finals rematch, the Mavericks were routed 115-93 by the visiting Nuggets on Dec. 26.

Dallas surrendered 20 consecutive points in the second quarter of that contest and heard plenty of boos as it dropped its third in a row at home versus Denver.

The Mavericks (18-11), though, have since shaken off their 0-3 start and worked their way up to fourth in the Western Conference standings.

Nowitzki deserves much of the credit. Named an All-Star even though he said he was undeserving, Nowitzki is averaging 25.7 points and shooting 51.9 percent over his last six games - finally finding his form after some poor stretches and a planned four-game absence to strengthen his sore right knee and improve his conditioning.

"He's the classic case of a great player you just stay the course,'' coach Rick Carlisle said after Nowitzki scored half of his 22 points in the final 6-plus minutes of Monday's 96-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. "I played with Larry Bird for three years and there were nights when he'd go 2 for 13 and then hit the last three shots to win the game. Dirk's the same kind of guy.''

Nowitzki has team bests with 45 points and 13 rebounds in two games against the Nuggets in 2011-12. He scored 25 points with nine boards in a 105-95 victory in Denver last Wednesday as Dallas snapped losing streaks of three overall and four versus the Nuggets.

The Nuggets (17-12) now make their final visit of the season to Dallas in 2011-12 following Tuesday's 109-92 home victory over Phoenix.

Arron Afflalo continued the best scoring surge of his career with a team-high 20 points to help Denver win its second straight following a season-worst five-game skid. Afflalo is averaging 20.3 points - well above his 11.9 season average - in four games since leading scorer Danilo Gallinari went down with a chip fracture in his left foot.

The Mavericks backcourt of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter should also be concerned about Denver point guard Ty Lawson, who has 44 points in his last two games.

Lawson scored 27 the last time Denver visited the Mavs.

Nene, who has a team-high 17 rebounds in the two meetings with Dallas this season, could miss a second consecutive game with a left calf strain. Denver might also be without starting center Timofey Mozgov (ankle) for a seventh straight game.

Those absences could make it easier for Nowitzki, center Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion to continue their strong work on the boards for the Mavericks. The trio is averaging 20.5 rebounds during the current four-game winning streak.

Dallas won a season-high five in a row Jan. 7-14.

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