(SportsNetwork.com) - The Dallas Mavericks will try to get out of a recent funk Friday night when they welcome the Sacramento Kings to American Airlines Center.
The Mavs have dropped three of their last four, including their most recent outing, a 117-115 setback at home to fellow Southwest Division rival, the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Dallas stormed back into the game and had two chances to tie it. Jose Calderon missed a wide-open jumper from the top of the key, then got his own rebound, but missed again, this time with Houston's Chandler Parsons hounding him.
Dirk Nowitzki, who was named to his 12th All-Star team as a reserve on Thursday, poured in a game-high 38 points to go along with 17 rebounds in the setback. Vince Carter led a strong bench effort with 22 points, while Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair scored 14 and 13, respectively, in a reserve role.
Shawn Marion and Monta Ellis each scored six points on a combined 6- for-20 shooting. But it was the defense that plagued the Mavs, who allowed the Rockets to shoot 55 percent from the floor.
"We've just got to do a better job of keeping the man in front of us," Nowitzki said after practice on Thursday. "We know we're not the best defensive team, but we've got to have five guys working together."
After Friday's tilt with the Kings, Dallas will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday to complete a four-game homestand. The Mavericks are 1-1 thus far on the residency.
The Kings begin a two-game road trip through Texas which will see them play in San Antonio on Saturday night. It's not a great time to play two playoff-bound teams as the Kings have lost five in a row and seven of their last eight.
On Wednesday, the Kings fell at home to the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-89.
Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay accounted for 24 and 23 points, respectively, for the Kings as Gay returned from a three-game absence with a strained left Achilles. Gay went over the 10,000 point mark in his career in the loss.
Defense has clearly been the problem for Sacramento during this slide. The Kings have allowed 113 points per game over the last five games and Wednesday's bout was the only one they surrendered less than 106.
"We're just not doing anything defensively. Teams are doing what they want, and we're not taking anything away. It's kind of embarrassing," Thomas said.
DeMarcus Cousins missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle and is listed as day-to-day. He was passed over for a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team despite ranking in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring, rebounding, steals and Player Efficiency Ranking.
The Kings beat the Mavs by 17 in Sacramento on Dec. 9, snapping a five-game winning streak by Dallas in the series. The Mavericks have won 18 straight at home against the Kings.