Suns-Mavericks preview

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

(AP) -- With 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki sidelined for at least three more games, the Dallas Mavericks are counting on their supporting cast to continue to help fill his void.

If their latest effort is any indication, the Mavericks should be able to manage just fine.

Looking to extend its winning streak at American Airlines Center to seven, Dallas tries for a ninth consecutive home victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.

Nowitzki, who has been hindered by a sore right knee, was held out of Saturday's 83-81 win at New Orleans. He isn't expected to return until Jan. 29 versus San Antonio at the earliest.

"We just thought it was a good decision for everybody. I'm not happy right now anyways, so the guys are better off when I'm not out there," Nowitzki said. "This gives me time to really do some of the stuff that I couldn't do when my knee was bothering me the last couple weeks. I couldn't lift and run and do the things I needed to do."

Dallas (10-7) didn't seem to miss a beat without the reigning NBA Finals MVP thanks in large part to Lamar Odom, who scored 16 points in his first start.

"I liked the way Lamar played. We're a running team, so with him starting and getting more minutes, this is an opportunity for him to get in the habit of running and to raise his level of conditioning," coach Rick Carlisle said. "This week is a big week for him."

Delonte West also scored 16 points while Shawn Marion and Jason Terry combined for 26.

"We've gone through this last year when we lost (Nowitzki) for nine games," said Jason Kidd, who had nine rebounds and five assists. "We felt like we have a lot of talent here, and we feel like our depth is one of our keys. Everybody just has to step up."

The Mavericks have outscored opponents by an average of 19.2 points in winning six straight at home - and given their recent history in this series - have to like their chances of keeping things going with Phoenix (6-9) coming to town.

Dallas, which has beaten the Suns eight consecutive times on its own court by 12.7 points per game, has also taken six straight from Phoenix overall.

The Suns, however, enter this matchup on a bit of a roll after posting back-to-back victories for just the second time this season. Two nights after prevailing 91-88 at New York, Phoenix handed Boston a 79-71 defeat Friday on the fourth stop of this five-game trip.

Center Marcin Gortat recorded 24 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double in as many games while Steve Nash had 11 points and nine assists.

"Steve put on a show, and people found me in the right spots," Gortat said. "We have to start winning. We tripped a couple of times at home. Now we need to make it up on the road."

Gortat is averaging 19.0 points and 11.3 boards in his last three matchups in this series. He had 22 and 10, respectively, in a 98-89 loss at Dallas on Jan. 4.

Odom's career average of 16.3 points versus the Suns is his highest against any opponent.

In addition to Nowitzki, Vince Carter (sprained left foot), who spent the majority of 2010-11 with Phoenix before signing with the Mavericks in the offseason, is also out.