November 12, 2014

The Dallas Mavericks let another game get away, and their grasp on a playoff spot is slipping as well.

A tough recent stretch has increased the urgency of a season-high six-game homestand the struggling Mavericks begin Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Though still in position to reach the postseason, Dallas (29-27) has had its margin for error greatly reduced by losing five of six. The Mavericks own just a one-game edge on two teams tied for eighth in the Western Conference, Houston and charging Utah.

The Mavericks weren't playing especially well entering the All-Star break and were sluggish coming out of it, falling behind by 21 points late in the first quarter Friday in Orlando. They then tired late in losing 110-104 in their third straight overtime game and league-high ninth this season.

Dallas overcame its early deficit behind a franchise-record 19 3-pointers but couldn't hit shots down the stretch, going 7 of 24 in the fourth quarter and overtime while being outscored 31-17 over the final 14 minutes of regulation.

''It's a long game and you've got outlast a team like this and we were unable to do it,'' said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. ''Frankly the group we have is not doing a good job finishing games.''

Playing nine of their next 10 at American Airlines Center could help the Mavericks get back on track, though they've lost their last three there. Dallas hasn't dropped four straight at home since Dec. 20, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014.

The Mavericks don't seem to be in much danger of matching that skid considering Philadelphia (8-46) is a league-worst 3-25 on the road and has lost seven of eight overall. The 76ers did play Dallas tough Nov. 16, however, leading by one with four minutes left before the Mavericks rallied for a 92-86 win.

Philadelphia outscored the Mavericks 48-24 in the paint and appears to have an advantage there with youngsters Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, coming off a season-high 24 points in Friday's 121-114 loss at New Orleans. The Sixers' 45.1 points per game in the lane ranks fourth in the NBA.

Dallas has allowed opponents to convert 60.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, among the NBA's worst marks, and has been outscored 196-110 in the paint over its last four.

While the Mavericks have struggled to defend inside, they've been on target from the outside. They're 45 of 108 on 3-pointers over their last three games and shot 46.3 percent (19 of 41) against the Magic.

Chandler Parsons is 14 of 23 over that stretch and went 6 of 7 in a 24-point effort against Orlando. Deron Williams finished 5 of 9 while scoring 25 and is averaging 23.3 points over his last three.

The 76ers also have done well from the perimeter of late, making 27 of 62 attempts (43.5 percent) over their last two games. Robert Covington was 7 of 11 in recording a career-high 29 points in a 114-110 loss to Sacramento prior to the break and Nik Stauskas has hit 7 of his last 11 tries.

Philadelphia, last in the league in scoring (95.5 ppg), shot 52.6 percent overall against New Orleans but couldn't overcome a slow start of its own, with the Pelicans building a 69-47 lead late in the first half.

"They jumped us," coach Brett Brown said. "We haven't played in nine days. It felt like it, and looked like it."

The 76ers have lost six straight to the Mavericks and nine in a row in Dallas since a 93-89 win Jan. 29, 2005.

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