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Mavericks must stop bleeding, but the schedule won't help

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Pistons hand Mavericks fourth straight loss (1:39)

Andre Drummond picks up his 54th double-double of the season as the Pistons defeat the Mavericks 102-96 to hand Dallas its fourth straight loss. (1:39)

DALLAS -- One can only hope that the Dallas Mavericks have hit rock-bottom after losing four straight games for the first time all season.

The harsh reality, however, is that things might soon get much worse.

The Mavs get two much-needed days to catch their breath after Wednesday's 102-96 loss to the Detroit Pistons, but they certainly won't get a break from the quality of the upcoming schedule. Dallas is two games into a nine-game stretch against teams with winning records, including three games against the two teams atop the respective conference standings.

"Good," shooting guard Wesley Matthews said with as much confidence as he could muster after being forced to watch from the bench as his teammates came up short in crunch time. "Maybe it'll make us pick our level of play up to where it should be. We've got to get off this skid. We've got to stop the bleeding."

Bad: Dallas dropped to 9-21 this season against plus-.500 foes, making it hard to believe that a turn for the better is on the horizon.

If you think it's bad now for the 33-32 Mavs, who are in danger of falling to .500 for the first time since their playoff-free 41-41 campaign in 2012-13, just imagine the embarrassment of shipping a lottery pick to the Boston Celtics to put the finishing touches on last season's terrible Rajon Rondo trade.

That's certainly a distinct possibility. The pick is only top-seven protected, and the Mavs are 14-19 in 2016 and have lost 10 of their past 16 games.

Dallas, which sits in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, is only in the playoff pack at this point because the West is the weakest it has been in years at the bottom of the bracket.

"I'm definitely concerned right now because we're trending down, and Utah's not that far behind us," point guard Deron Williams said.

The Jazz's loss to the Golden State Warriors was the best thing that happened Wednesday night for the Mavs. The Jazz (29-35) are 3½ games behind the Mavs in the standings.

The Mavs are only a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers and a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets. Their hopes to grab the sixth seed -- and avoid the historically good San Antonio Spurs or Warriors in the first round -- could be determined by a home-and-home series with Portland on March 20 and 23.

Not that the Mavs can afford to look that far ahead. They've got a lot to figure out before the Indiana Pacers visit Saturday afternoon.

"We need to look at ourselves in the mirror, see what's missing, what we can do better for each other and stay together," center Zaza Pachulia said. "It's not the right time to fragment and go the other way. We are professionals. We have to take it serious. Maybe one game is going to change everything."

Added Matthews: "We've said we're a playoff team. We feel we're a playoff team. It's time to be that. We'll see what we're about."

Coach Rick Carlisle disagreed with the idea that the Mavs are playing their worst basketball of the season, pointing out that they are a possession here and there away from winning three of the past four games, although the first two of those losses were to lottery-bound teams.

Carlisle also noted that the Mavs have had some bad luck, such as Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson swishing a dagger 3 with 58.9 seconds left after launching a desperation, off-the-dribble shot just before the 24-second clock buzzer.

"There are no gimmicks," Carlisle said. "It's the basics and it's circling the wagons. We've got to fight our way out of it."

The best thing the Mavs have going for them now is good team chemistry, a stark contrast to last season. That doesn't mask the fact that this is a mediocre team.

"We're trying to stay positive here," small forward Chandler Parsons said. "We're taking a few L's, but there's still a lot of basketball left."

Perhaps not nearly as much as the Mavs planned, though.