January 05, 2015

Wednesday night's matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets should've been Deron Williams' first game against his former team.

A hamstring injury took care of that.

The Mavericks will likely be without their starting point guard as try to avoid a fifth loss in seven games.

Williams spent four seasons with the Nets before the team bought him out of his contract last summer after a very disappointing 2014-15. The Mavericks quickly signed the three-time All-Star to a two-year, $11 million contract, and the move has turned out be a good one with Williams playing well and helping Dallas exceed expectations thus far.

The Mavericks, though, don't figure to have their second-leading scorer available after Williams strained his left hamstring in Tuesday's 103-99 loss at Toronto. He scored a season-low seven points on 2-of-7 shooting before departing in the third quarter.

"My hamstrings have been a little tight the last couple of games, and then I came to the bench and told (head athletic trainer Casey Smith) they were a little tighter than normal," Williams told the team's official website. "As soon as I went back out there, I went to plant and push off, and I just felt a little pop."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Wesley Matthews had 15 for the Mavericks (15-13), who made a late charge behind their reserves to erase almost all of an 18-point deficit before losing for the fourth time in six games.

"The guys in the last six minutes were unbelievably scrappy," coach Rick Carlisle said. "They played unconditionally hard, they played unselfishly, and they gave us a chance. You know, I'm proud of the way those guys played, and I hope everybody on our roster sees the example that they set."

Without Williams, J.J. Barea likely will make his first start of the season.

Nowitzki needs 10 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for sixth on the all-time scoring list. He seems a good bet to reach that total since he's scored 20 in back to back games and hasn't scored fewer than 11 in 18 straight.

Brooklyn (8-20) also hasn't been very good defensively lately, allowing 100 or more points in six straight and nine of the last 10 games. The Nets did so again Monday at Chicago but did enough on the other end to snap a five-game skid with a 105-102 victory.

Brook Lopez had 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Thaddeus Young added 16 and 13 for Brooklyn, which was coming off a 100-85 home loss to Minnesota.

''We came in focused, we were energetic and our bench did a great job of coming in keeping the energy high and responding to runs,'' Lopez said. ''We were all there for each other. We were pulling for each other.''

The Nets will try to end a four-game skid at home during which opponents have averaged 103.5 points and shot 51.1 percent. That stretch comes after they won six of seven at Barclays Center and limited the opposition to 96.1 points and 42.8 from the field.

Brooklyn clearly needs more from Joe Johnson, whose 10.8 scoring average is his lowest since 2002-03 with Phoenix. He's averaged 8.0 points on 28.3 percent (15 for 53) shooting the last five games.

''He's just not finishing some of the shots he normally finishes,'' coach Lionel Hollins said. ''That happens.''

The Nets have won four of five against the Mavericks with the loss coming Jan. 5 in the most recent meeting in Brooklyn.

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