While the Dallas Mavericks have jumped back into the playoff hunt, they haven't had much success against the top teams in the Western Conference.
The Mavericks will get another chance to prove they're a serious contender Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Clippers begin a four-game road trip in Dallas.
The Mavericks (34-36) have gone 21-13 in their last 34 to move within striking distance of the Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West.
"(This season) has been so up and down,' center Elton Brand said. "It's been a roller coaster.'
It's been a positive ride for the Mavericks lately. Mike James led the way a season-high 19 points and shot 7 of 10 while Dirk Nowitzki added 17 in a key 113-108 home win over Utah on Sunday.
Dallas has won eight of 11 since coach Rick Carlisle moved the 37-year-old James into the starting lineup. The Mavericks have averaged 105.2 points and shot 50.0 percent from the field during that stretch.
Despite its strong play over the past 2 1/2 months, Dallas has lost six of its last seven against the top five seeds in the West. The Mavericks are 1-13 overall against those teams (San Antonio, Denver, Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Clippers).
They'll try to put an end to those struggles as they take on a Los Angeles club that clinched a playoff berth in back-to-back seasons for the third time in team history Friday.
The Clippers (48-22), who have taken both meetings with Dallas this season and three in a row in the series, are looking to snap a two-game road skid and win their fourth in five games overall. Los Angeles won two in a row for the first time this month with a 101-95 victory over Brooklyn on Saturday.
Chris Paul banged his left knee early in the game but finished with 29 points and 11 assists. The All-Star guard missed 12 games earlier this season with a bruised right kneecap.
"It's just one of those things when people are setting screens on you, they just didn't give me a step," said Paul, who has 29 assists in the two games against the Mavericks this season. "Hopefully it'll be all right.'
Willie Green filled in with 15 points and shot 6 of 8 on Saturday as Chauncey Billups missed his second straight contest with a strained right groin. Billups is expected to be a game-time decision for Tuesday.
After totaling 18 points and going 6 of 20 in his last two contests, Blake Griffin will try to bounce back with his fourth straight double-double in this series.
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