The Milwaukee Bucks must get out of their funk, not to mention their recent fourth-quarter woes, before looking ahead to possibly a second playoff appearance in eight seasons. They hope last week's deadline acquisition will help in that endeavor.
But that could prove difficult Tuesday night given their struggles in Dallas combined with Dirk Nowitzki's resurgence.
The Bucks (26-28) are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but haven't looked much like a playoff team lately having lost seven of eight. They dropped their third Saturday by giving up the go-ahead basket with 5.9 seconds left in a 103-102 home loss to Atlanta. Milwaukee led by 10 points with 6:17 to go, but the team's late-game woes struck again.
Milwaukee, which also blew fourth-quarter leads in its previous two losses, is giving up 49.0 percent field-goal shooting while connecting on 36.1 percent of its shots in the final period over its previous eight games.
Three-point defense also hurt the Bucks again, with Atlanta going 14 of 28 from beyond the arc. Milwaukee's last eight opponents are hitting 41.8 percent of their 3-point attempts.
"I thought our guys played hard. I thought we played well enough to win the game," coach Jim Boylan said. "Every time we seemed to get some sort of comfortable lead against them, they'd bang a 3. The games keep coming, so you don't have a chance to really feel sorry for yourself."
J.J. Redick had 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting and seven assists in his first game with the Bucks after being acquired from Orlando last Thursday before the trade deadline.
Redick, who averaged 15.1 points in his first 50 games with the Magic, is shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range and should be a boost for a Milwaukee squad that is hitting 30.2 percent from the perimeter in its last eight games.
"I feel like I was brought here to help this team win and secure a good playoff position," Redick said. "I'm a competitor and I certainly didn't want to start off with a loss. We did some good things and I enjoyed playing with this group."
The Mavericks (25-30) are 4 1/2 games out of the playoff picture in the West, but have won five of seven as Nowitzki returns to form after offseason knee surgery caused him to miss the first 27 games.
Dallas took a 103-99 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday as Nowitzki had season highs of 30 points and 13 rebounds. He's averaging 21.6 points on 54.2 percent shooting over his last five games, including a 10-of-14 clip from 3-point range.
Nowitzki has also been solid against Milwaukee - the team that originally drafted him ninth overall in 1998 - scoring 28 or more in five of the last seven matchups.
The Mavericks have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Bucks in Dallas.
The Mavericks' Chris Kaman had four points and four rebounds in eight minutes Sunday after missing the previous 10 games with a concussion. He's averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds this season.
Kaman won't have to face Milwaukee big man Samuel Dalembert, who was suspended for this game by the Bucks for an unspecified "violation of team policy."