If the Indiana Pacers are to end their longest slide of the season, they'll need a much better performance versus the Dallas Mavericks than what they provided in the first stop on their trip to Texas.
Looking to avoid their first four-game skid in two years, the visiting Pacers try to bounce back from their worst defeat of the season Sunday night against the Mavericks.
Indiana (46-16) followed a five-game winning streak by falling 98-96 to Golden State on Tuesday, then opened this three-game trip with a 109-87 loss at Charlotte the next night.
The Pacers looked even worse in Friday's 112-86 defeat at Houston. They committed 19 turnovers and were outscored 48-30 in the paint. Indiana shot 6 of 18 while being outscored 38-16 in the third quarter.
"We just need to win games at this point," center Roy Hibbert said. "We're just putting the emphasis on trying to get better. We've been playing awful."
The Eastern Conference leaders showed their frustration when Evan Turner and Houston star James Harden both received technical fouls after a minor scuffle in the third quarter.
However, coach Frank Vogel doesn't seem too concerned that his team has committed 37 turnovers and allowed the Bobcats and Rockets to shoot a combined 51.9 percent in the last two contests.
"Every team I've ever been a part of has had a stretch like we're in right now,'' Vogel said of his club, which last dropped four straight March 5-11, 2012. ''And since I've been here we've always worked our way out of it, so I'm sure we will. It stinks right now. It's not fun right now, but we've got a good team and we'll regroup."
The Pacers likely need Paul George to get back on track after totaling 15 points on 5-of-21 shooting and committing nine turnovers in the last two games.
George was held to 12 points and went 4 of 17 from the field when Indiana's three-game winning streak over Dallas (37-26) ended with an 81-73 home defeat Feb. 12. However, he's scored 54 and shot 58.3 percent, including 9 of 16 from 3-point range, while Indiana has won its last two in Dallas by a combined 36 points.
The Mavericks held the Pacers to their fewest points and lowest field-goal percentage (32.1) of the season last month.
They could need another strong defensive effort in order to build on Friday's 103-98 home win over Portland. Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 as the Mavericks ended a three-game skid despite needing to rally after blowing a 30-point second-quarter lead.
"It's that close; you're either feeling great about it or it's a really tough, tough night," said coach Rick Carlisle, whose team is narrowly ahead of Memphis for the eighth playoff spot in the West. "This is how it's going to be the next 19 games; the games are all going to be hard like this."
Despite the collapse, the Mavericks played better defensively after yielding an average of 109.0 points in the previous three contests.
"That's what it comes down to, one stop and one opportunity, one stop," Carlisle said. "That's how you've got to look at it. It's going to be a character test. If we're not up to it, then we don't deserve to go to the playoffs."
Nowitzki has averaged 25.7 points on 52.9 percent shooting in his last 11 against Indiana.