Dallas (AP) — Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is trying to find his shooting touch after a knee injury sidelined him for nearly three weeks.
Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin is playing like an All-Star after losing all of last season to an injured knee.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks go for their eighth straight victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night in the teams’ first meeting at American Airlines Center this season.
In five games back since missing nine with a sprained right knee, Nowitzki is scoring 19.0 points per game – 4.4 fewer than his season average – on 38.0 percent shooting. The former MVP missed 17 of 23 shots before hitting the game-winner with six seconds left in Saturday’s 87-86 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
“Oh man. I couldn’t buy one,” Nowitzki said after scoring a team-high 23 points. “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m running in quicksand. I can’t make a move. I’ve got no legs. Even the last one really didn’t want to go in. It kind of rolled out there.”
Dallas (28-15) needs Nowitzki – 2 for 11 from 3-point range in the past three games – to get back on track after it lost 5 1/2 games to Southwest Division-leading San Antonio while dropping seven of nine during his absence.
After snapping a five-game road losing streak Saturday, the Mavericks open a four-game stretch at home against a Clippers team that’s won 12 of 17.
Despite shooting 43.5 percent, including 7 of 33 from 3-point range, Los Angeles (17-26) posted its seventh straight victory at Staples Center on Saturday, 113-109 over Golden State.
Griffin hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 47 seconds left and finished with 30 points, a career high-tying 18 rebounds and a career-best eight assists.
After missing 2009-10 with a broken left kneecap suffered in the final game of the preseason, the 21-year-old forward leads all first-year players with 22.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, and he is second in the NBA with 35 double-doubles.
The only Clipper to appear and start in all 43 games, Griffin has given hope to a franchise with one playoff series win since 1976.
“We’ve done a good job of turning things around as a team, and I’m really proud of my teammates and the way we’ve stuck together,” said Griffin, averaging 31.5 points over the last four games. “We went through a real tough patch at the beginning of the season, and this says a lot about us because we kept on learning and we kept on fighting. Everybody knows their roles and what they’re supposed to do. It’s just a matter of following through.”
Coach Vinny Del Negro’s team could take another step in its maturation by improving on the road, where it has allowed 106.4 points per game while losing 13 of 16.
The Clippers have dropped seven in a row in Dallas, falling 106-96 in their last game there March 23 even with Nowitzki getting ejected in the third quarter for complaining about a foul. Jason Kidd had 12 assists and hit six 3-pointers while scoring 26 points – his most in any game from the past 2 1/2 seasons.
Clippers leading scorer Eric Gordon, averaging 20.3 points in three career games in Dallas, is questionable for this matchup after a bruised lower back kept him out for nearly 14 minutes Saturday.
Nowitzki and Griffin had 16 points apiece in Dallas’ 99-83 victory at Los Angeles on Oct. 31 in the teams’ only meeting this season.
The Clippers’ last road win in this matchup was 85-71 on April 19, 2006.