The Dallas Mavericks are still battling to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference, but they have a tall order in front of them Thursday night when they visit the Denver Nuggets.
The Mavs are 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot out west. Dallas is in the midst of a four-game road swing and fell to the Lakers on Tuesday. Things don't expect to be easy Thursday as Denver is a league-best 33-3 at home.
"I think Denver is one of the best home teams in the league, so we've got to be ready and flush this one," Dirk Nowitzki said Tuesday. "Maybe watch a little bit tomorrow and be ready for a dogfight in Denver for an up-and-down game. They're in a great groove the last couple of months, so we've got our hands full."
The Nuggets are in a tie for the third spot in the Western Conference with the Memphis Grizzlies, but own the tiebreaker. Both teams are 1 1/2 games in front of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Denver picked up its second win in a row on with a 113-96 road victory over the Utah Jazz. The win knocked the Jazz one-half game behind the Lakers, something Nuggets coach George Karl knew.
"In a way, I hate helping the Lakers, but now maybe they can help us," Karl said after the Utah victory. "They have Memphis and the Clippers the next two games."
Once again without Ty Lawson, the Nuggets used a balanced scoring attack. Seven Denver players scored in double figures, led by the 21 from Danilo Gallinari.
Kenneth Faried, Evan Fournier, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler joined Gallinari with double-digit scoring nights.
Kosta Koufos added 13 rebounds.
The Mavericks fell behind by 15 at the half against the undermanned Lakers, who were without Metta World Peace and Steve Nash. Dallas fought back in the third, but L.A. blew the doors off the Mavericks in the fourth quarter to win, 101-81.
"It seemed like we never could get back over that hump," Shawn Marion said. "Their size and their extra passes killed us and our reactions were real slow tonight. It's frustrating, but they wanted it more than we did tonight and it showed."
Five Dallas players scored in double figures, led by 14 from Chris Kaman, who was re-inserted into the starting lineup, in part, to physically battle Dwight Howard.
O.J. Mayo had 12 and Nowitzki, Darren Collison and Vince Carter each scored 11 points.
These two teams will meet a week from Friday down in Big D.
The Nuggets, who play Houston and San Antonio at home during this stand, won this season's only matchup, which was in Dallas. The Mavs have won three of their last four in the Mile High City.