A three-game losing streak last week damaged the Dallas Mavericks' hopes of making the playoffs, but two wins in three contests since have shown that they are hardly giving up.
The Mavericks should have a good chance to continue their improved play as they open a crucial four-game road trip Friday night against the sinking Detroit Pistons, whom they've dominated recently.
Dallas (27-33) rebounded from a 33-point loss to Houston on Sunday by beating the Rockets 112-108 on Wednesday. O.J. Mayo had two big fourth-quarter baskets and a career-high 12 assists, and Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki each scored 22 for the Mavs.
"We weathered everything tonight, and it is a sign of character," coach Rick Carlisle said.
Dallas is 11th in the Western Conference, 4 1-2 games out of the final playoff spot after holding on against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. Houston star James Harden scored 28 points but was limited to 5 of 17 from the field.
The Mavs now open their trip versus the Pistons before facing Minnesota and Milwaukee and closing it out against West-leading San Antonio.
"Every game to us is really big," Nowitzki said. "We've got a lot of road games coming up and we've been losing some close road games, so we're going to ... get focused on Detroit and hopefully start the trip off on the right foot."
Dallas, which has alternated wins and losses in its last six away games, has seen five of its last seven road defeats come by six or fewer points.
The Mavericks appear to have a good chance to get the trip off to a good start, having won the last two overall meetings with Detroit by a combined 29 points. Dallas has won seven of eight in the series and three of four at the Palace.
The Mavs took the first meeting this season 92-77 on Dec. 1 behind 27 points from Mayo. Dallas limited the Pistons to 34.1 percent shooting overall and outscored them 50-29 in the second half.
Detroit (23-40) may not be primed to put up much more of a fight this time, having dropped six of seven overall and four in a row at home. The Pistons lost 114-75 at San Antonio on Sunday and 87-77 at home to a New York team missing Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday.
The game was tied after three quarters, but the Knicks went on a 16-0 run in the fourth to take control. Detroit played without top big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and coach Lawrence Frank missed the game due to a personal matter.
"It just happens throughout the season, when guys go out with injuries," guard Brandon Knight said. "It made it a little bit tougher as far as trying to find a flow for our team, but I think we did a good job just playing the game and figuring it out."
Monroe, who averages team highs of 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds, is uncertain for this game. He's nursing a sprained left ankle suffered in practice Tuesday.
The Associated Press News Service
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