The Dallas Mavericks will begin the new year looking to avoid their longest losing streak since 1999 as they battle a Washington Wizards team that hopes a flip of the calendar can change its luck.
The Mavericks are currently riding their first six-game slide since Jan. 6-17, 2001 and have dropped nine of their past 10 overall. Each of the last four setbacks have come with Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the first 27 games of the campaign following knee surgery before returning to action on Dec. 23.
Nowitzki, who made an earlier-than-expected return, is still trying to round into form and is averaging 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in his four games, all off the bench.
The big sniper shot just 3-of-9 from the floor and had eight points in Sunday's 111-86 setback to the visiting San Antonio Spurs. Nowitzki did add five rebounds and three blocks.
Darren Collison led the Mavs with 18 points to go along with eight assists and is averaging 18.8 points per game over his last four. Still, Dallas is in danger of losing seven straight for the first time since Feb. 9-19, 1999.
"We just didn't get it done, and we haven't gotten it done in a pretty significant stretch of games now," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It starts with me and then it goes right down the line. There are no excuses. We have simply got to dig in harder and we know we've got to do a better job."
Dallas, which is 0-2 all-time in New Year's Day games, has won five straight and 16 of its past 21 meetings with Washington. That includes a 107-101 home victory on Nov. 14, with the Mavericks getting 25 points from O.J. Mayo and 23 by Chris Kaman.
Jordan Crawford had 21 points and seven assists to pace the Wizards, who have lost three straight and 10 of their last 13 on the road in this series.
Crawford is questionable for this game after sitting out Saturday's 87-77 setback to the Chicago Bulls due to a sore left ankle. He was able to practice on Monday, with Wizards head coach Randy Wittman noting that Crawford said he felt better.
The guard averaged 19.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 13 December games.
Bradley Beal netted 14 points and Emeka Okafor finished with 11 points and a season-high 18 rebounds in Saturday's loss, which was Washington's ninth in its last 10 games.
"We just didn't make shots and they got rebounds. They're only going to give you one shot," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said.
Washington began the season 0-12 and is an NBA-worst 4-24 on the season. That has been tough on Wittman, who said on Monday the team is just trying to learn what it can from these struggles.
"It's tough, obviously, when you go through what we've gone through with everything; injuries and the way we started, wins and losses," said Wittman. "But it's also, you learn. I've learned a lot through it too and how to deal with a team you're trying to keep competitive and keep fighting. That's the one thing I'm proud of these guys about."
In addition to guard John Wall having yet to play this season due to a strained left knee, guard A.J. Price has missed the last 11 with a fractured right hand. Forwards Trevor Ariza (13 games, calf strain) and Trevor Booker (19 games, strained right knee) have also missed significant time and none are expected back for this game, with Ariza seemingly the closest to returning.