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The Dallas Mavericks' home dominance of the Sacramento Kings could be in jeopardy if DeMarcus Cousins is on the court.
Cousins could return from a four-game absence Friday night as the Kings try to end an 18-game slide in Dallas in a matchup of bad defensive teams.
The Mavericks' home win streak over Sacramento (15-30) is the longest such run in team history. The Kings' last road victory in the series was Feb. 27, 2003.
Dallas (26-21) won 15 of 16 overall in this series before losing 112-97 on Dec. 9. Cousins led the way with 32 points and 19 rebounds.
Sacramento is hopeful he will be back from a sprained left ankle.
Cousins is averaging team highs of 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. Only four players have more double-doubles than his 28.
Sacramento welcomed back Rudy Gay from a three-game absence Wednesday in its fifth straight loss, 99-89 at home to Memphis. Gay scored 23 points after being out with a strained left Achilles tendon, and was seen limping afterward.
"I kind of tweaked my foot a little bit more," said Gay, who expects to play Friday. "But it doesn't matter."
The problem for the Kings was a defensive effort that allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 54.7 percent. Sacramento is allowing opponents to average 104.7 points and shoot 46.9 percent - both are the NBA's third-worst marks.
"I told our team afterward that I am going to start playing guys who are willing to defend," coach Michael Malone said. "And if (we) are not ready to defend ... I can no longer be a hypocrite. I've been a hypocrite the whole year. I got the job in June and I preached defense and that's what I believe in. We're one of the worst defensive teams in the league."
Dallas also fits that description, allowing opponents to shoot 46.4 percent and average 102.7 points.
Defense was the major problem in the Mavericks' third loss in four games, 117-115 at home to Houston on Wednesday. They allowed a Rockets team playing without top scorer James Harden to shoot 55.4 percent - the worst mark versus Dallas all season.
"The defense was horrible all night," star Dirk Nowitzki told the Mavericks' official website. "I mean, every time down somebody was in the paint, laying the ball up or in transition, drives or pick-and-roll plays. I mean, if you give up 117 at the house, you're going to lose."
Nowitzki had one of his best efforts Wednesday with 38 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Monta Ellis saw his streak of scoring in double figures end at 15 games as he had six points.
Ellis will be matched up at point guard with Isaiah Thomas, who had 24 points and 12 assists in the last meeting. Dallas shot 38.9 percent in that contest, marking one of four times this season that a Kings opponent has been held below 40.0.
"We can score with the best of them," Thomas said. "We're just not doing anything defensively."
Gay wasn't available in the first meeting since he was acquired from Toronto on that day. He can identify with the Kings' woes in Dallas, where he has lost 10 of 11 games.
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