Rockets-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

Fatigue may be a concern for the Dallas Mavericks, who will play three games in the next four nights.

The slumping Houston Rockets have even bigger worries.

The Mavericks will try to avoid losing their third straight while the Rockets look to stop a four-game skid as the two playoff hopefuls face off Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.

With four games remaining, Dallas (34-28) is in seventh place in the Western Conference - 1 1/2 games ahead of Houston and Phoenix, which are tied for eighth, and two games up on 10th-place Utah.

The Mavericks have a tough final stretch of games, with three opponents in playoff contention - including road games against Chicago and Atlanta. However, they have won six in a row over the Rockets, including both meetings this season.

Dallas has made things a little harder on itself with back-to-back losses beyond regulation to the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah.

The Mavericks came back from a late 10-point deficit in regulation Monday against the Jazz, but fell 123-121 in triple overtime. Dirk Nowitzki scored 40 points, but none in the third overtime, missing three shots.

"The good thing about the overtimes is we knew they were going to kind of run out of gas," Utah's Al Jefferson said. "They are an older team, they played (Sunday). So we knew the shots were going to start falling a little short. I am surprised they lasted as long as they did."

The Mavericks came up short Monday after fading Sunday against the Lakers, shooting 38.5 percent in the fourth quarter and overtime of a 112-108 defeat. Dallas has lost three overtime games this month by a combined eight points.

Frustration may be setting in. Delonte West earned a technical foul in the second quarter Monday after fouling Gordon Hayward away from the ball then poking his index finger in Hayward's ear.

"We are two warriors, out here battling," said West, who may be facing a fine. "I forgot the NBA is a gentleman's game."

The Rockets (32-29) are trying to stave off a late-season collapse as they head into their final five games.

Houston, which trailed by at least 16 points in each of the first three losses during its slide, was swept in a crucial home-and-home series with Denver, losing 105-102 at home Monday.

Goran Dragic and Chandler Parsons scored 21 points each, but Parsons missed a desperation 3-pointer in the final seconds. The Rockets have been in a shooting slump over the past week, connecting on 39.5 percent of their shots the last four games.

"The guys are hurting right now," coach Kevin McHale said. "We'll regroup and we've got to go to Dallas and find a way. ... We were sitting good a few games ago and now we're not sitting so good."

The offensive struggles also seem to be impacting the Rockets' defense, with the team giving up an average of 105.3 points during the losing streak.

Houston will try to regroup as it heads on the road for its next two, playing the first of two remaining games against lowly New Orleans on Thursday. The Rockets face Golden State and Miami this weekend.

"We need to win three or four games out of these last five to have a really good shot at it," forward Luis Scola said. "With five (wins) I think we're going to be in the playoffs. But right now we can't think that way. We've just got to try to think about getting one."

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