Daily Confidential

After suffering their first loss in nearly two weeks, the Dallas Mavericks have been bumped out of first place in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks look to regroup on Saturday when they host a Sacramento Kings team they have dominated recently.

Dallas (35-9) remains one of the hottest teams in the league, with 21 wins in its last 23 games, but shot a season-low 31.2 percent from the floor and managed only 13 first-quarter points Thursday in its 96-85 loss to Chicago.

The defeat snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Mavericks, who have not lost consecutive games since starting the season 0-4. Nonetheless, they now trail the Phoenix Suns - winners of 16 in a row - for the Western Conference lead.

"It's a disappointing loss but sometimes a loss wakes everybody up again and we know we haven't arrived,'' said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double, but shot just 7 of 22 from the field.

Josh Howard, Dallas' No. 2 scorer behind Nowitzki, also had a poor shooting game, going 4-for-20 from the floor for nine points - his first time in single digits in his last 23 games.

Howard had averaged 26.8 points on 52.5 percent shooting in the previous four games.

Nowitzki, Howard and the rest of the Mavericks have had little trouble scoring against the Kings (17-24) this season, though.

Dallas has won both games over Sacramento this season, beating the Kings 109-90 at home on Dec. 1, and 109-91 at Arco Arena on Dec. 18.

Nowitzki has 47 points and 23 rebounds in the two games against the Kings, while Howard has 52 points on 73.3 percent shooting.

The Mavericks have won 11 of 14 over Sacramento, and have taken the last six home matchups.

Dallas has been outstanding regardless of the competition at the American Airlines Center this season, where it is 19-3 - tied with the Suns for the best home record in the league. The Mavs have won 12 straight home games by an average margin of 15.8 points since falling to Detroit 92-82 on Dec. 7.

The Kings suffered their sixth loss in seven road games on Friday, 88-84 at New Orleans.

Sacramento led 50-46 at halftime, but missed its first 11 shots after the break and scored just 10 third-quarter points on 3-of-24 shooting. They finished the game shooting 36.4 percent.

"We felt that if we held them to under 90 points that we could win the game, but obviously that wasn't the case,'' Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "The difference was field goal percentage tonight.''

Brad Miller had seven points on just 3-of-13 shooting, while Mike Bibby finished with 21 points, but went 7-for-19 from the floor.

Bibby has also struggled with his shooting touch against the Mavericks lately, averaging 10.5 points while posting a 30.4 percent mark from the field in his last four games against them.

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