Round three of the annual four-game Texas Showdown between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks will be contested when the two teams meet on Sunday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The first two games between the Lone Star State rivals were won by the Spurs in a nine-day span in November, when Dallas was a walking MASH unit and without forward Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks still kept San Antonio's margin of victory to an average of six points, and anything less of an effort from Dallas this time around would be a surprise.
Nowitzki is expected to play Sunday, as is guard Wesley Matthews, who missed the most recent game, a 109-98 loss at Oklahoma City on Thursday night, with a right hip strain. Dallas will still be without starting point guard Deron Williams (toe strain) and super sub Jose Juan Barea (left calf strain). Neither will travel south with the team.
The Spurs have won seven straight and 21 of the last 25 regular-season meetings with the Mavericks. San Antonio has taken 12 straight and 16 of the last 19 regular-season games against Dallas played in the Alamo City, and the Mavericks have not defeated the Spurs on the road in the regular season since Nov. 26, 2010.
The Mavericks (16-30) had won five of their past seven games before the loss to the Thunder on Thursday. But it's hard to keep a streak like that going when four of the top five scorers are out of the lineup.
"It's just been that kind of a year," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Through it we have to manage the situation. We have to move the franchise forward."
Dallas was led by Harrison Barnes' 31 points in the loss to Oklahoma City. Justin Anderson added 17 for the Mavericks.
Guard Devin Harris, who missed the first two matchups against the Spurs with an injury, likes how his team responded to the adversity and has played through tough stretches this season.
"We understand how we need to play to be successful and win," Harris said. "Experience helps. Expectations are growing."
The Spurs head home for a four-games-in-seven-days homestand after a 119-103 loss at New Orleans. It was the fourth game of a weeklong road trip in which San Antonio won at Cleveland, Toronto and Brooklyn before wearing down in the Big Easy.
The defeat snapped San Antonio's five-game win streak and run of five consecutive victories over the Pelicans. New Orleans' 119 points were the most allowed by the Spurs this season. San Antonio was just 6 of 20 from the floor in the fourth quarter and was outscored 34-19.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich admitted afterward that his team's tank was on empty.
"We couldn't make shots," Popovich said. "Shoot 38 percent on the road and it's hard to win. We hung in there in the first half, but we just ran out of gas.
"New Orleans was aggressive," Popovich added. "They played great for 48 minutes. They moved the ball, hit the boards hard and got loose balls. They did a great job."
The Spurs (36-10) were paced by Kawhi Leonard with 23 points while forward Davis Bertans hit for 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Leonard was back in the lineup after a two-game absence with a sore left hand and saw his six-game streak with 30-plus points come to an end.
San Antonio's Pau Gasol will miss his sixth straight game after he fractured his left fourth metacarpal in pregame warmups prior to the Spurs' win over Denver on Jan. 19. There is no timetable for his return. Guard Jonathon Simmons will also miss Sunday's game because of a sprained right wrist.