Mavericks, Pacers trying to turn page on rough stretches

For the second time in nine days, a pair of playoff hopefuls will square off when the Dallas Mavericks host the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Dallas will look to exact some revenge and even the season series with the Pacers, as it fell to Indiana 133-111 on Feb. 25.

The Mavericks are also aiming to flip the page on an ugly stretch that has seen them drop four of five games, including Sunday’s 120-116 home defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers.

After trailing for the majority of that game, head coach Jason Kidd’s team scored 40 fourth-quarter points but ultimately couldn’t take the lead. In Kidd’s mind, continuing the momentum of the late-game scoring outburst is imperative.

“I thought the guys in the fourth quarter played at a high level,” Kidd said. “I said this early in the year, our best defense is our offense. When we score, we’re going to be one of the best teams in this league. When we don’t score, we’re one of the worst teams. And when we struggle to score, we tend to not do anything on the defensive end.”

To Kidd’s point, Dallas’ 118.7 points per game rank them second in the Western Conference, while the 118 points allowed per contest are third most in the West.

The inefficient defense reared its ugly head during the five-game stretch, as the Mavericks have given up 127.4 points per game in the span.

The league’s leader in scoring at 34.5 points per game, Luka Doncic logged his 13th triple-double of the season Sunday with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Nonetheless, Dallas’ superstar knows he can improve in some areas.

“I think we just need to have more energy,” Doncic said. “I can be better, for sure. When I bring it, people follow me so I’ve got to be better too.”

The Mavericks won’t be the only team in Tuesday’s game carrying a sense of urgency.

Indiana comes in losers of two straight, most recently on the wrong side of a 117-105 defeat to the lowly San Antonio Spurs Sunday.

It was a combination of poor 3-point shooting (20 percent) and second-half defense (65 points allowed after halftime) for coach Rick Carlisle’s team, which is jockeying for position in the crowded Eastern Conference.

“We allowed (the Spurs) to shoot 54 percent and 40 percent from three. There’s elements of the game defensively that we needed to do a lot better that we did not,” Carlisle said. “I thought we tried hard, but we weren’t good enough in this game and that’s the bottom line.”

Hoping to emerge from an offensive slump is Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging just 9.5 points per game and shooting 26.5 percent from the field over the last four games. In his fourth year in the league, Haliburton is having a breakout season, tallying a career-high 20.8 points per game and a league-leading 11.3 assists per contest.

Both teams currently sit in the eighth spot of their respective conferences. Seeds 1-6 qualify for the playoffs, while 7-10 will compete in the play-in tournament. Dallas entered Monday a game behind both the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings for the No. 6 seed, while the Pacers are a game and a half behind the Orlando Magic for the coveted sixth spot in the East.

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