Two teams still hoping to jumpstart their seasons hook up Wednesday night when the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings face off at American Airlines Center.
Though the season is only about a quarter old, the Mavericks (4-16) and Kings (7-13) appear headed to the lottery. Missing the playoffs is nothing new for Sacramento, which is working on a decade-long postseason drought.
The Kings had high expectations. Instead, this DeMarcus Cousins-led squad has dropped three games in row and eight of the last 11. Sacramento, 11th in the Western Conference, ends a five-game road trip in Dallas.
The Kings lost 106-98 at New York on Sunday. Sacramento battled back from a 21-point deficit to make it a game in the fourth quarter before running out of gas.
"I think we'll be fine," Darren Collison told the Sacramento Bee. "We've just got to figure out how to compete at a higher level. Not from a physical side, but a mental side, and try to limit our mistakes mentally."
Cousins is off to a great start, averaging a career-high 29.1 points and 10.5 rebounds. The seven-year pro is third in the NBA in scoring and 11th in rebounding.
Closing out games is point of contention for the All-NBA center.
"Most guys, adrenaline gets going in those last couple of minutes," Cousins told the Bee. "You're going to find out who has the most heart in those last situations, and (Sunday) it was them. I don't think there's any one thing you can do or talk it over. It's who wants it the most in those last couple minutes."
Dallas has failed to qualify for the playoffs only once since 2001. Unless something dramatic happens with this injury-ravaged club, this season will be about ping-pong ball positioning.
The Mavericks are without Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut and J.J. Barea. Bogut injured his right knee in Monday's 109-101 loss to Charlotte. Seth Curry (knee) is making progress, but is officially listed as questionable against the Kings.
Dallas led for much of the second half before faltering down the stretch. The Hornets outscored the Mavs 34-23 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Two days after their best performance of the season in a 107-82 rout of Chicago, the Mavs fell flat with the game on the line. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle pinned the collapse on a lack of effort late.
"Why we fell into that, I'm not sure," he said. "Maybe we were resting on the laurels of our one-game winning streak."
Charlotte outrebounded the Mavericks 55-35. Losing Bogut in the first quarter didn't help, but Carlisle didn't use losing his starting center as an excuse.
"The thing that's most disappointing is the rebounding numbers," he said. "After really going toe-to-toe with Chicago and playing even on the boards, we got wiped out (Monday) by 20, which shouldn't happen. That points to effort."
Dallas won two of its previous four games before Monday, and was competitive in the other two. That qualified as progress in a campaign that's off to the worst start since Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000.
Losing their edge in the fourth quarter against Charlotte -- the Mavs were up 11 in the third -- didn't sit well in the locker room.
"We just went cold for whatever reason and we just can't do that," Wesley Matthews sad. "We have to be crazed dogs from the tip to the final buzzer and that is how we have to play. That is how we have been playing. We have been that way for the last, however many games, we showed that identity."
The Mavericks won 22 of the last 27 regular-season meetings against Sacramento, but the Kings claimed three of the four games last season.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.