Trying to Take Advantage

The Dallas Mavericks' playoff hopes are surrounded by uncertainty, especially with Dirk Nowitzki out of the lineup for at least the next few games.

The Denver Nuggets are one of the teams hoping to take advantage when they meet the Mavs in Denver on Thursday.

Oddsmakers from have made Denver –8 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 217.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 76% of bets for this game have been placed on Denver -8 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Nowitzki suffered a sprained ankle and knee against San Antonio on Sunday, and it's unclear exactly how long he'll be out, although he doesn't figure to return before next week at the earliest.

In the meantime, Dallas (45-26) will try to maintain a two-game lead over the Nuggets (43-28), who are in ninth place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Golden State.

"We're up to the challenge," Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "We don't have to win out. But we all have to pick it up a little."

The Mavericks started doing that Tuesday, when they snapped a three-game losing streak and won their first game without last year's league MVP, 103-90 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Several Mavericks turned in impressive performances in Nowitzki's absence. Josh Howard had 32 points and went 15-of-15 from the free-throw line, Stackhouse added 20 points and Erick Dampier scored 19 with 17 rebounds.

"Damp obviously was very inspired," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We need him to do what he did tonight, not necessarily the numbers but being aggressive going to the basket."

Still, Dallas was facing a Clippers team that lost its eighth straight and was without center Chris Kaman, and the Mavs still haven't beaten a winning team since trading for Jason Kidd last month. They are 0-8 against above-.500 teams with Kidd in the lineup, and their struggles on the road extend even further back.

Dallas is 4-9 in road games since Jan. 31, with three of the wins in that span coming against Memphis, Minnesota and Miami.

This will the Mavs' only trip of the season to Denver, which has been an especially difficult place for opponents to win. The Nuggets have won six straight at home and are 16-2 at the Pepsi Center in 2008.

Denver will be playing at home for the first time since pounding Seattle 168-116 on March 16. The Nuggets went 3-2 on their road trip but won the last three games, including a 120-106 victory at Memphis on Monday.

The Nuggets shot 50 percent from the field and scored at least 100 points for the 12th consecutive game, averaging more than 120 points over that span.

Allen Iverson had 26 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23, but J.R. Smith led the team with 27 off the bench. Smith scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and made seven 3-pointers in the period, when he shot 8-of-10 overall.

Still, center Marcus Camby, who had 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots, said it was defense that won the game for the up-tempo Nuggets.

"The last game of a road trip, usually fatigue comes in," Camby said. "But we have a lot of veterans on this team, and they know the importance of every ballgame, especially down the stretch."

The Mavs and Nuggets have split two meetings in Dallas this season, so Thursday's game will determine the head-to-head tiebreaker. Denver was without Anthony in a 90-85 loss to the Mavs on Jan. 27.

The Nuggets' 122-109 win Dec. 6 was the only time they've reached 100 points in the last seven meetings with the Mavs, going 2-5 over that span.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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