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Mavs host Nuggets in Big D

Dirk Nowitzki has finally started to heat up and the Dallas Mavericks will try to ride their superstar to a fifth straight victory when they host the Denver Nuggets tonight in Big D.

Nowitzki had an uncharacteristically slow start to the season as he struggled with a sore knee and conditioning issues but the 7-foot All-Star has turned it on lately, averaging 25.7 points over his last six contests, including 22 on Monday when the Mavs disposed of the much-improved LA Clippers, 96-92.

Former Maverick Caron Butler returned to north Texas in that one and was welcomed by a standing ovation when he accepted his NBA championship ring, but the forward received a bigger hand from the American Airlines Center crowd when he missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds.

The errant try allowed the Mavericks to secure the win behind five double- digit scorers and a stifling defense in the fourth quarter. Shawn Marion followed Nowitzki by adding 16 points in Dallas' fourth straight win.

"We held it together and kept our poise. ...It was defense that got us over the hump," Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm real proud of our guys because this was a very tough game."

Dallas, which is 2-0 on a three-game homestand, is 11-5 overall on its home floor.

The Nuggets, who are opening up a three-game road trip tonight, have bounced back to win two straight after a season-long five-game skid. Arron Afflalo scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting on Tuesday, as Denver knocked off the Phoenix Suns, 109-92, at Pepsi Center.

Six Nuggets scored in double figures in that one, including Ty Lawson's 17 points, Chris Andersen's 16, Kenneth Faried's 13, Al Harrington's 12 and Rudy Fernandez's 11.

On the injury front for Denver, leading scorer Danilo Gallinari remains out with a chip fracture in his left ankle while center Timofey Mozgov will likely miss a seventh straight game tonight with a sprained left ankle. Nene, meanwhile, is listed as day-to-day with a left calf strain.

The Nuggets, who are 9-5 as the visitor this season, will also face Memphis and Oklahoma City on their trek.

Dallas snapped a four-game regular season skid to Denver with a 105-95 win in the Rockies back on Feb. 8, but the Nuggets routed the Mavs in Dallas, 115-93, back on Dec. 26.