Time is running out for the Dallas Mavericks, whose once-promising season has taken an unexpected turn south in recent weeks.
Dallas (36-39) has lost four straight and seven of its last nine heading into Monday’s critical matchup against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
Dallas sits in 11th place in the Western Conference, one loss behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Thunder were scheduled to play later Sunday night.
The Mavericks could also be without Luka Doncic after the four-time All-Star picked up his 16th technical foul of the season in Sunday’s 110-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Unless the technical is rescinded by the league office, Doncic will be suspended for one game and have to sit out Monday’s contest.
Doncic scored 40 points on Sunday as the Mavericks lost to Charlotte for the second time in three days. Dallas fell to 7-13 since Kyrie Irving was acquired in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.
“It’s unfortunate that we let these two games go and we have to figure out a way to stop the bleeding,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said.
Kidd is also working closely with Doncic to rediscover his star’s love of the game. Doncic spoke about his frustration level after Friday’s loss to the Hornets.
“I think you can see it with me on the court,” Doncic said. “Sometimes I don’t feel it’s me. I’m just being out there. I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it’s just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”
After beginning its five-game road trip with another disappointing loss, the Mavericks will look to regroup against Indiana (33-42), which has lost five of its last seven.
Dallas dropped its first meeting against Indiana 124-122 on Feb. 28. Doncic scored a game-high 39 points in the loss, while Tyrese Haliburton had 32 points to lead Indiana.
The Pacers concluded a four-game trip on Saturday with a 143-130 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Indiana dropped three of the four games and is 3 1/2 games behind the Chicago Bulls for 10th place and the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.
One bright spot in Saturday’s loss was the play of third-year pro Jordan Nwora, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 9. Nwora scored 25 points in the second quarter against Atlanta and finished with a season-high 33 points.
“He has the ability to get going,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We saw it when he was with Milwaukee against us. The thing I loved is he did it in the most efficient way. He’s got the touch and he’s got the range. He’s a good player.”
With Indiana’s hopes for a spot in the play-in tournament fading, Carlisle has started looking more toward the future. The Pacers’ focus over the past week has been on the development of young players such as Bennedict Mathurin and Nwora.
Nwora, a 6-foot-9 forward, finished 12-of-17 shooting against Atlanta, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
“The kid can flat-out score,” Pacers guard T.J. McConnell said. “I gotta keep feeding him and continue the hot hand. Since he’s gotten here, he’s been unbelievable. He’s a great kid, great teammate and a special scorer.”
Indiana center Myles Turner could be available Monday after sitting out one game with lower back soreness. Turner is averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 54.8 percent from the field.
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