Dirk Nowitzki is getting his game back into form following an extended offseason, but the wins just aren't coming for the Dallas Mavericks.
Perhaps a visit by the lowly New Orleans Hornets will change that.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks will try to avoid their first four-game home losing streak in four seasons on Saturday night when they face a Hornets team that's won just once in its last 20 visits to Dallas.
Out the first 27 games of 2012-13 following offseason right knee surgery, Nowitzki is averaging 10.0 points off the bench in six games back. The former MVP set season highs for points (19) and minutes (29) on Wednesday in Miami, but the Mavericks lost for the 10th time in 12 games, 119-109 in overtime.
Dallas (13-20) was outscored 9-3 in the final 3:37 after Nowitzki's 3-pointer.
"Execution down the stretch has been one of our problems all year,'' he said. "We're 0-6 in overtime (this season) and lost a lot of close ones during the season in regulation. We've got to work on that.''
Actually, only two of the Mavericks' 14 regulation defeats have been by fewer than 10 points, and they have lost nine games by at least 19. The previous two times the latter happened came in their last two home games - 106-85 to Denver on Dec. 28 and 111-86 to San Antonio on Sunday.
However, if the Hornets' history in Dallas is any indication, the Mavericks should be in good position to prevent their first four-game home skid since starting 0-4 at home in 2008-09.
New Orleans (7-25) has dropped six straight as the road team in this series following a 96-81 loss on Jan. 7. A 104-97 victory on Jan. 14, 2009, is the Hornets' only win at the Mavericks since 1998, when the team was based in Charlotte.
Having Eric Gordon back in the lineup could definitely help New Orleans' chances of winning before it heads home for three straight, but it's uncertain if he'll be ready to go. The fifth-year guard, who missed the first 29 games this season following arthroscopic right knee surgery, did not play in Wednesday's 104-92 loss at Houston as coach Monty Williams rested him as a precautionary measure. Gordon scored 11 points in Tuesday's 95-86 loss to Atlanta after finishing with 24 in his season debut, last Saturday's 98-95 win at Charlotte.
"He's getting more and more game ready each day," Williams, whose team has lost 14 of 16, said Friday. "It's tough to go from not playing at all to jumping right in and playing in an NBA game.
Even if Gordon plays, rookie Austin Rivers will likely make a 14th straight alongside point guard Greivis Vasquez, who is averaging 16.9 and 10.5 assists in the last 11 contests.
Rivers has struggled with his shot - he's hitting 34.3 percent - but a bigger concern could be on the defensive end against O.J. Mayo. Dallas' leading scorer poured in 30 points on Wednesday after averaging 9.8 in Nowitzki's first five games back.
While with Memphis, Mayo averaged 12.8 points in four games against New Orleans last season.
Mavericks center Chris Kaman, who spent last season with the Hornets after being acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers, will try to build off his second double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds).
New Orleans' big man Anthony Davis is among the rookie leaders with five double-doubles despite missing 13 games due to injury.
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