(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' matchup against the lowly Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night as the defending champions try to bounce back from back-to-back losses.
Preview: Kings (19-38) at Mavericks (31-26)
DALLAS — There may not be an opponent better suited for the Dallas Mavericks to end their recent two-game losing skid against than the lowly Sacramento Kings, a team that has dropped 15 straight in Big D.
After consecutive losses to Portland and Memphis on a back-to-back Friday and Saturday nights, the Mavericks (31-26) return to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night looking to duplicate their most lopsided win of the season, a 99-60 rout at home against the Kings back on Jan. 14. And after the Kings got even with a 110-97 victory — ending a 10-game losing skid in the series between the two squads — on their home floor over the defending champions on Feb. 9, the Mavs will seek retribution while finishing the season series in their own friendly confines.
“You have to get a win,” sixth man Jason Terry said with a four-game road trip looming. “I mean, you go home and play Sacramento, a team that just beat us. You know, you look at the schedule that’s ahead of us and every team that we face down the stretch has beaten us or we haven’t played them yet, and the only teams are Chicago and Atlanta. So, everyone else has had some success against us, one way or another, and we’ve just gotta figure it out.”
The Mavs will try to extend a home winning streak over the Kings that began in January of 2004. The Kings (19-38) enter the game with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, falling to a four-game losing streak after a 104-87 home loss to Houston on Sunday. Sacramento is also a West-worst 5-23 on the road this season, which should serve the Mavs well as they shift players in and out of the lineup.
Monday, the Mavericks announced that the organization and forward Lamar Odom would mutually be parting ways after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner struggled to career-lows in scoring, rebounding, minutes played and shooting percentage. Odom will be inactive for the rest of the season and will not rejoin the team.
“By mutual agreement, the Dallas Mavericks and Lamar think it is in the best interest of both parties to part ways for the rest of the year,” Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson told reporters on Monday. “He has been placed on the inactive list and will not be with the team for the rest of the year. I know it’s been a difficult and frustrating year for our fans, Lamar and ourselves. We just think it is in the best interest of everyone to do this at this time.
“The timing is what it is. These things never come at the best of times. And so, we felt with the playoff push coming up, it was probably in everybody’s best interest. Look, it’s been a frustrating situation. Lamar hasn’t performed the way he wants to perform and is capable of performing, he’s dealt with a lot of personal issues and at this point we need to be able to count on some folks. It’s never easy to do these things, and we just need to move on.”
The Mavs then called up swingman Kelenna Azubuike from the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends. Azubuike is expected to remain with the team for the remainder of the season, although Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says the former Kentucky standout's active status hinges on the squad’s health.
Fortunately for the Mavs’ sake, starting point guard Jason Kidd and backup big man Ian Mahinmi rejoined the team at practice on Monday and are expected to suit up on Tuesday.
Mahinmi missed the last two games due to the birth of his daughter. Meanwhile, Kidd missed his fourth straight game on Saturday with a strained right groin as his team fell behind by as much as 20 before falling to a 94-89 loss in Memphis.
Now, the Mavericks find themselves in a jam-packed race that seems to change daily for playoff positioning. And with just nine games left to better their spot in the West standings, the Mavs know the importance of every remaining contest the rest of the way as they attempt to track back to the NBA Finals in defense of their title.
“Every game now is going to be of even more significant importance and we know that. We don’t need to overstate it,” Carlisle simply said.
“Our main focus right now is trying to get in the playoffs,” Terry explained with his team currently in the seventh position. “Bottom line is Sacramento is coming to town and we have to win this game. This is a must-win ballgame, and say what you want, but we have to win. There’s no other way out of this game. … Again, our focus is strictly on Sacramento. That’s what we said when we came in [Monday], after Donnie made his decision; we said our focus is Sacramento and getting into the playoffs. We’ve got nine games left. You know what I mean? I don’t know when the last time a team won a championship and not made it to the playoffs. I don’t know when it was … and I don’t want that to repeat. So, as a leader of this team, I’m saying our focus is primarily on Sacramento and beating them.”
Note: The Mavericks return home to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night when they compete against the Sacramento Kings before beginning a four-game road trip. The two teams are tied in the season series at 1-1 after both won by double digits on their own home floor. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).