The Dallas Mavericks emerged from a grueling stretch of two back-to-backs in five days with positive results, though their last win wasn't without controversy.
A home matchup Monday night against the shorthanded and struggling Orlando Magic will likely not be nearly as taxing.
Dallas went 3-1 over its stretch of four games in five nights, closing it out Saturday with a 110-107 home win over New Orleans. The Mavericks (22-16), who improved to 13-6 at home, got 40 points from Dirk Nowitzki, including 20 in the third quarter. The 40 points were his most since he scored 40 at Utah on April 16, 2012, and he had never scored 20 in a single quarter.
Nowitzki hit seven straight shots during the third quarter after starting 2 for 9. He was 10 of 19 with 24 points in a 17-point road win over the Pelicans a night earlier.
"Oh man, unbelievable," Monta Ellis said of Nowitzki, who was 15 of 16 from the free-throw line and is averaging 23.5 points over his last six contests while going 14 of 29 from 3-point range. "I've seen that a lot throughout my career. For him to come out and give us that lift tonight really opened up a lot for us as a team."
NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn said Sunday a foul should have been called on the last play of the game, which saw Ellis tie up Austin Rivers before he could attempt a 3-pointer prior to the buzzer.
Ellis scored 26 on 7 of 13 shooting and is 25 of 47 in his last three. He's averaging 27.8 points over his last eight contests versus Orlando.
The Magic (10-27) are trying to end a season-long seven-game losing streak, but will be without several key players. Leading scorer Arron Afflalo (20.8 ppg) is doubtful after sitting out Saturday's 120-94 loss in Denver due to a right foot injury he suffered in Friday's loss to Sacramento. Jameer Nelson also left Saturday's contest in the second half due to a hand injury and is considered day-to-day.
"I'll listen to my body and hopefully the pain goes away a little bit by tomorrow (Sunday)," said Nelson, who averages a team-best 6.4 assists.
Orlando, which is one of the league's worst road teams with a 3-16 record, is already without leading rebounder Nikola Vucevic (11.0 rpg) due to a concussion.
The Magic are surrendering 108.8 points on 48.9 percent shooting over the last five games and averaging just 86.9 points themselves during the seven-game skid.
"It's real frustrating just because we've been losing," said Tobias Harris, who scored a season-high 22 against the Nuggets. "A lot of our guys are hurt right now. We have to stay together as a team. Stay positive."
Dallas could also be without two key players in Shane Larkin and Shawn Marion, who are both day-to-day. Larkin sprained his right ankle in the third quarter versus New Orleans while Marion has missed three games in a row with a shoulder contusion.
The Mavericks won 108-100 at Orlando on Nov. 16 for their fourth straight victory in the series and 11th in 14 meetings. The teams combined to shoot 51.9 percent but Dallas scored 22 points off 17 Magic turnovers while only committing eight.