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Thursday, December 27th (All times Eastern)
Dallas Mavericks (12-16) at Oklahoma City Thunder (21-6), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to put a tough two-game losing streak behind them Thursday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder lost in Minnesota one week ago and fell in last season's NBA Finals rematch to the Miami Heat in the main attraction of the league's Christmas lineup. It marked the first time this season the Thunder have lost two in a row.
All is certainly not lost for the Thunder. They have won 10 straight at home and a victory Thursday, in a rematch of last season's round one sweep by the eventual Western Conference champion Thunder, would match them with the Los Angeles Clippers for the best record in the NBA.
On Tuesday, the Thunder overcame a 12-point first-quarter deficit to inch ahead by four in the second half. The Heat battled back for the lead, but Oklahoma City had chances late. The Thunder trimmed the margin to a single point in the last minute of the game, but Miami made its free throws and last- second efforts by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn't fall.
"Our guys are competitors," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I'm proud of how they compete and they never let up. Never. I've never been disappointed in this team with how they compete. They came back and fought when things weren't going well for us and gave ourselves a chance to tie the game up."
Durant led the way with 33 points, followed by 21 and 11 rebounds from Westbrook. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin both had 15 apiece.
The Mavericks are losers of three straight, but there is something to be positive about. Dirk Nowitzki made his season debut on Sunday in a 129-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Nowitzki had eight points and six rebounds in just over 20 minutes.
Since that drubbing at the hands of their fellow Texans was the last outing for the Mavs, they've had plenty of practice time to reintegrate the future Hall of Famer.
"Having (Nowitzki) back on the court is a challenge I've looked forward to," admitted coach Rick Carlisle. "You know, I don't see that as being a big adjustment. The caliber of competition has raised, which has made it more difficult for all of us. I don't think that this is a day to make this about one guy's struggles. We win and lose as a team, and that's where our collective mindset has got to be at."
Against the Spurs, the Mavericks didn't do much well. They allowed San Antonio to shoot 56 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from long distance. Dallas committed 20 turnovers, shot 46 percent from the floor and just under 36 percent from the 3-point line.
The Thunder come into Thursday night's game as the NBA's leading scoring team. The Mavericks rank 27th in opponents' scoring, but are the 10th-best scoring squad.
In the regular-season, the Thunder have won four of their last five against the Mavericks. Oklahoma City is 14-2 this season at home, while Dallas is 4-12 outside Big D.
12/27 10:31:36 ET
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