The Dallas Mavericks may not be concerned about the possibilities of a 70-win season, but they face a challenging week that will go a long way toward determining whether they reach that plateau.

The red-hot Mavericks can match the seventh-longest winning streak in NBA history with their 17th in a row Sunday night when they visit the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.

Dallas (51-9) hasn't lost since Jan. 25 at Chicago and is riding the longest winning streak in franchise history.

The Mavericks are well shy of the Lakers' record 33-game winning streak from 1971-72. Milwaukee is second in league history with a 20-game run in 1971, the Lakers had a 19-game streak in 2000 and three other teams have won 18 in a row.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls went 72-10 for an NBA-record winning percentage of .878. The Mavericks currently have the second-best winning percentage in league history at .850, but still believe there is room for improvement.

"We're still a long way away from where we want to be in the playoffs. We have a lot of stuff we can get better at," star forward Dirk Nowitzki insisted.

Still stinging from last year's loss to Miami in the NBA finals, Dallas isn't motivated by regular-season records.

"It's easy for us to tune it out, just knowing we haven't accomplished anything," point guard Jason Terry said. "We're a team that has a goal in mind. Until we accomplish that goal, we're focused on the task at hand."

The task this week features a difficult stretch of five games in eight days. It includes a visit by Pacific Division leader Phoenix on Wednesday and a trip to Eastern Conference-leading Detroit next Sunday.

Dallas has won 36 of its last 38 games, but one of the losses was a 101-98 defeat to the Lakers on Jan. 7 that snapped a 13-game winning streak.

Los Angeles (33-30) shot 54.9 percent - a season high for a Dallas opponent - and outscored the Mavs 33-21 in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 26 points in the final period for the Lakers.

Dallas earned revenge 11 days later and took a 2-1 lead in the season series with a 114-95 home victory. Nowitzki and Josh Howard each posted double-doubles as the Mavs shot 54.5 percent.

The other meeting between these teams this season also featured a strong offensive performance by Dallas in a 110-101 victory on Dec. 13. The Mavs shot 60.0 percent - a season high for a Lakers' opponent - as Howard scored 29 points and Nowitzki added 23.

Howard and Nowitzki have combined to average 52.3 points in the three games against Los Angeles - eight more than their combined average this season.

The Lakers are a far different team than the one that beat Dallas back in January. They have lost five straight and 11 of 14 after a 108-92 defeat at Philadelphia on Friday in the finale of a winless four-game trip.

Forward Lamar Odom missed all four contests with an injured left shoulder and the Lakers are also without forwards Luke Walton (sprained right ankle) and Ronny Turiaf(back).

"When we get our personnel back, we'll be fine," coach Phil Jackson said.

The Lakers were predictably overly reliant on Bryant on the road trip without Odom. The Lakers superstar - suspended for Wednesday's loss in Milwaukee - took at least 27 shots in the three games he played, accounting for three of his five highest shot totals this season.

The losing has put the Lakers' seemingly firm grip on a playoff spot in jeopardy. They are sixth in the Western Conference, but a pack of sub-.500 teams has been gaining on them.


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