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Week ahead: Tough road for team on a skid

The Dallas Mavericks came limping home from Cleveland with a three-game losing skid, their first since opening the season with three straight losses. With a rare three-game break to rest their weary bones, the Dallas Mavericks look forward to a rare three-game week starting Wednesday with a track meet at the Denver Nuggets.

If Dallas hopes to end its losing ways, it's going to have to find a way to put an end to its third-quarter misery. The Mavs have led at the half in each of the last three games only to cough up their first-half hard work with putrid third quarters. They have more turnovers (17) than field goals (14) in their last three third quarters combined with their Cleveland showing seemingly being of rock-bottom variety.

The Cavs trailed 40-25 in the second quarter and by eight at halftime but outscored Dallas 27-13 in the third as the Mavs had seven turnovers and six field goals.

"We’re doing some good things, but we have to do a better job of sustaining and that’s on both ends of the court," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We have a couple practice days. We have to put them to good use and we have to get better."

As Dirk Nowitzki goes for a third hot shooting game in a row (and how strange that he finally turns the corner and Dallas can't score more than 88 points in the two losses), the Mavs' three-pack of games is far from easy. They're 0-3 against Denver and Friday's opponent Minnesota with a first meeting Saturday against Portland since the memorable first-round 2011 playoff series.

Here's a quick glance at this week's games against three teams that are a combined 41-31:

Wednesday: at Denver Nuggets (15-9), 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch:The last time these two clubs met it wasn't pretty. The Nuggets stormed Dallas the day after the Miami massacre on Christmas and had a 30-point lead in the third quarter. The Mavs are hopeful that point guard Jason Kidd, who has missed five games with a strained left calf -- and Dallas is 2-3 in that stretch -- will return for this one, but it would be a difficult spot for him against the hustling, up-tempo Nuggets and in the thin air of the Mile High City. The Nuggets, led by All-Star hopeful point guard Ty Lawson, forward Danilo Gallinari, the top prize in the successful Carmelo Anthony trade, center Nene and a deep roster of runners, lead the league in scoring at 104.6 points a game, more than 10 points more than Mavs, and are second in field-goal percentage at 48.0 percent from the floor. If Dallas has an advantage it's that it is coming off three days rest and is desperate for a win, while the Nuggets will be on game No. 5 of 6 in eight nights, a stretch that started with a back-to-back-to-back.

Friday: at Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12), 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Maybe the third time is the charm. The last two times these teams have met, once up north and once down south, Minnesota's dynamite double-double duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, well, double-doubled the Mavs into submission. The Timberwolves have won both games, taking the first in Minnesota by scoring the final 15 points of their New Year's Day matchup for a 99-82 win and then bludgeoning the Mavs in Dallas, 105-90, on Jan. 25. Love is averaging 28.0 points in the two games. He's shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 75 percent from 3-point range -- and that's not just 3-of-4, but rather 9-of-12. As for the glass, Love is averaging 14.0 boards. Rubio, the thrilling, 6-foot-4 Spanish point guard, has two-game totals of 31 points, 19 assists and 10 rebounds. Unfortunately for Dallas, Minnesota will have had the previous night off after coming off a back-to-back.

Saturday: vs. Portland Trail Blazers (14-10), 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg) will be coming home as a first-time All-Star -- at least it seems highly improbable that he will not have been selected a Western Conference reserve two nights earlier. He and his Blazers teammates will also be out for a measure of revenge after losing the final two games of their six-game, first-round series with Dallas after tying the series with the miracle Game 4 comeback. Plenty of analysts are high on this team, which has six players averaging in double figures and ranks fifth in the league in scoring at 98.1 points a game. They're doing the job defensively, too, giving up just 91.7. Despite the differential, Portland is only four games over .500 because it has been terrible on the road at 3-9. The Blazers play at struggling New Orleans the night before, which doesn't necessarily mean they'll come dragging into Dallas.