Thu, Dec 26, 7:30
American Airlines Center - Dallas, Texas
By NOEY KUPCHAN, Associated
Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks entered their Christmas break with a needed win.
The San Antonio Spurs didn't have nearly as good a holiday.
Looking to build on their latest effort, the Mavericks try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the visiting Spurs as these Southwest Division rivals meet for the first time Thursday night.
Dallas (16-12) had dropped back-to-back games and four of six before winning 111-104 at Houston on Monday. Nowitzki led the way with 31 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.
"You don't ever want to sit on two days at Christmas with a three-game losing streak, so we definitely wanted to have this one," Nowitzki told the team's official website. "We competed and everybody who was out there played hard."
After undergoing knee surgery and missing the first 27 games of 2012-13, the 35-year-old Nowitzki appears to be back to his old self. He is averaging a team-leading 21.5 points, 4.2 more than last season.
"The driving the ball is what's missing a little now," Nowitzki said. "I do a lot of one or two dribble and then up, but I want to get back to driving some more to the basket and get to the foul line. I don't think I'm in '11 shape, but compared to the last two years I feel a lot better. The right knee is great and I feel better."
The Mavericks could use a vintage performance from Nowitzki as they try to snap their recent woes against the Spurs (22-7). Dallas has dropped nine of 11 in the series, including five straight by an average of 17.4 points.
Nowitzki has been held to 13.6 per game and 35.9 percent shooting during that skid. However, he did score 21 and pull down 11 rebounds in a 92-91 loss at San Antonio on March 14, their last meeting.
The first-place Spurs look to get back on track after falling 111-98 to Houston on Christmas Day. Manu Ginobili scored a team-high 22 points off the bench but Tony Parker had a season-low six on 3-of-11 shooting.
"We didn't play well," said Parker, whose team is one of only two yet to lose back-to-back games this season. "Move on to the next one, it's the NBA."
San Antonio allowed the Rockets to shoot 52.3 percent, its third-highest mark surrendered thus far. The Spurs are 0-6 when yielding more than 110 points compared to 22-1 when they don't.
"We just didn't give very good performances," coach Gregg Popovich said. "You can live with that from time to time. Nobody's going to play perfect every night. But you can't combine poor performances with a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline. They whipped us. They whipped us good. That's an embarrassing loss."
Tim Duncan has been held to a combined 20 points on 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) shooting in the last two games.
Monta Ellis is averaging 25.9 points in 10 matchups against San Antonio since the start of 2009-10, his third-highest mark against any opposing club. Ellis, averaging 20.6 points, is shooting 50.0 percent at home compared to 42.7 percent on the road.
Dallas has compiled an 11-3 record on its own court. The Mavericks have won five straight within their division.
I think the Spurs have their work cut out for them tonight. The Mavs are on a roll and the twosome of Dirk and Monte Ellis can light it up. However, they seem to be the mainstay of their offense so if we can play some wholesome defense against them and hold the rest of their squad to minimal scoring, we should be OK. I read somewhere that Dallas is at the bottom of the league in rebounding so if we can hit our offensive boards and limit them to one shot, we might salvage this holiday week.
To succeed in life, you need three things: a backbone, a wishbone and a funny bone. -- Reba McEntire
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