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NBA Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, March 24th (All times eastern)

Dallas Mavericks (27-22) at Houston Rockets (26-22), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Western Conference playoff picture is anything but clear. One-half game separates six teams that occupy slots four through nine.

Two of those clubs will meet in South Texas on Saturday when the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks visit in-state rival Houston. The Mavs currently hold the sixth slot and are one-half game clear of No. 8 Houston but both clubs are just a hiccup from being on the outside, looking in.

Dallas has lost two straight, including a 104-87 setback against a Tony Parker-less Spurs club in San Antonio on Friday. Jason Terry ended with 18 points for the Mavericks, who have lost the two straight after a four-game winning streak.

Dirk Nowitzki tallied 16 points and Shawn Marion had 13 points after missing the previous three games with a sore left knee.

"I had a brutal night. During the middle of the game I just could not get the ball in the rim. A lot of my shots were short. I did not have enough to get the ball in tonight," Nowitzki said.

The Rockets, meanwhile, have won two straight to start a four-game homestand, the latest of which was a 109-83 rout of Golden State on Thursday. Chandler Parsons had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in that one.

Luis Scola netted 18 points to go with seven assists for the Rockets, who have won four of their past six games overall. Goran Dragic scored 17 points and dished out nine assists, while Samuel Dalembert added a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards.

"The defense was great tonight," said Parsons. "We wanted to clog the paint and help early but we didn't want to give them any open looks."

Houston, which is an impressive 18-6 at Toyota Center, will finish its residency against Sacramento on Monday.

Rockets guard Kevin Martin, who missed his sixth straight game against the Warriors with a tear in the labral of his right shoulder, is still being listed as day-to-day by the club but is unlikely to return tonight as Houston attempts to snap a four-game skid to the Mavs.

03/24 10:51:54 ET

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