DALLAS -- It has come down to this for the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs are in such a bad slump that they're now faced with must-win games over the next two games -- against the two worst teams in the NBA.
Losers of eight of their past 10 games, the Mavs (23-20) will host the Washington Wizards (9-31) at 7:30 Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. Then on Thursday, the Mavs will entertain the Charlotte Bobcats (6-34).
The Wizards have lost nine of their last 11 games, and the Bobcats are even worst -- having lost 24 of their last 27 games. So, whether the Mavs will openly admit it or not, they have to beat the Wizards and Bobcats, or else they may start hearing some boos raining inside the AAC.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki tried to put things in perspective after Monday's practice when he said he and his teammates have to draw on their past experiences in order to get the tables turned.
"I think we have a veteran team and obviously a lot of those guys have been through battles and been through tough stretches in their careers, and this is definitely one of them, and we’ve got to respond right away,'' Nowitzki said. "We feel like if we set the tone early in games and have a good first quarter, it usually carries through the rest of the game.''
With just 23 games left, is Nowitzki worried that the Mavs won't get the ship right in time for the playoffs, which starts next month?
"I’m not worried,'' Nowitzki said. "We need some of warriors back and we need to be less stagnant.''
The Mavs are the defending NBA champs, but hasn't played like their defending anything. The defemse has slipped all the way to the point where they allowed 110 points in a 13-point loss to Sacramento last Friday, then gave up 11 points during a 24-point loss to Golden State last Saturday.
The question begs: Who are the leaders that will get the Mavs pointed in the right direction?
"It’s got to come from the best players and the coach,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "And we
will all do that.''
After the games against the Wizards and Bobcats, the Mavs host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, play at Denver on Monday, then entertain the Los Angeles Lakers on Mar. 21. From there, the Mavs finish out this month by playing at San Antonio on Mar. 23, at Houston on Mar. 24, then host the Rockets on Mar. 27 before ending the month in Miami on Mar. 29 and in Orlando on Mar. 30.
In other words, this could get ugly quick if the Mavs don't get themselves in gear.
"Some things are hard to evaluate when the schedule is so busy, but the bottom line is we know we can play better and we have to do that,'' Carlisle said. "Practice day (Monday) is something we felt we needed and (it was) positive.
"We have to translate it to the floor tomorrow. I pretty clearly stated this is an important three games for us being at home. So we’ve got to pick it up.''
-- Dwain Price
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