Timberwolves-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

While it's been a frustrating season for the Dallas Mavericks, they may be ready to finally put it all together.

The Mavericks aim for a season best-tying third consecutive win Monday night as they face the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves, who try to avoid a winless four-game road trip.

Dallas (15-23), which fell 10 games under .500 for the first time in 13 years Wednesday with a 99-93 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, has since picked up the pace. Two nights after pulling out a 117-112 overtime win at Sacramento, the Mavericks cruised to a 104-83 rout of Memphis in the opener of a four-game homestand Saturday.

Shawn Marion led six players in double figures with 20 points for Dallas, which outscored the Grizzlies 21-10 in transition and held them to 38.1 percent shooting.

"For where we are right now, gutting out the game in Sacramento was really important for us. Being able to come home and start off this homestand the right way is really important for us," coach Rick Carlisle told the team's official website. "We take nothing for granted. This whole season has been work. It's been challenging and it's going to continue to be that, but we're showing some signs of coming together in some different ways and we've just got to continue."

Nowitzki's return from offseason knee surgery has surely helped the club. The former league MVP has averaged 18.0 points over his last six games, scoring 17 on 5-of-8 shooting against Memphis.

"This was definitely a good one to get and build on the momentum we got in Sacramento with a win," said Nowitzki, averaging 27.3 points in his last four matchups against Minnesota. "And hopefully we can build on that."

After taking 18 of 19 from Minnesota (16-18), the Mavericks have gone 1-4 in this series since the start of last season. Nowitzki only played in one of those losses, missing both this season. The Timberwolves won 90-82 at Dallas on Nov. 12, then 114-106 in overtime Dec. 15.

Minnesota, though, has dropped nine of 13 since beating the Mavericks last month, including seven of eight on the road. The Timberwolves have been outscored by an average of 17.3 points on the first three stops of their current trek, most recently falling 106-88 to San Antonio on Sunday.

J.J. Barea returned from a two-game absence due to back spasms to score 15 points for Minnesota, which was limited to 37.1 percent from the field. The Timberwolves entered the fourth quarter trailing by seven but were outscored 28-17 over the final 12 minutes.

"We were right there going into the fourth," guard Luke Ridnour said. "On the road, that's where you want to be - within striking distance."

Besides getting outscored 54-34 in the paint, the Timberwolves were outscored 32-10 in transition. They're giving up an average of 14.9 fast-break points to rank near the bottom of the league.

"A lot of transition points is our weak point," forward Andrei Kirilenko told the league's official website.

Minnesota continues to play without star Kevin Love (fractured hand) and is also expected to be without coach Rick Adelman for a fifth consecutive game as he tends to his wife, who is hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Assistant coach Terry Porter will continue to fill in.

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