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By JORDAN GARRETSON
(AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks largely failed to capitalize on a franchise-long homestand, casting some uncertainty on their chances at a 13th playoff appearance in 14 seasons. But they've since found some separation - albeit to a small extent - away from home.
Dallas looks to close out an undefeated four-game trip Tuesday night against the struggling Utah Jazz.
The Mavericks (47-31) split a set of eight straight home games March 17-April 1, which included three overtime losses by a combined six points. Afterward, they were locked in a three-way tie with Phoenix and Memphis, but have since notched road victories over both Los Angeles clubs as well as Sacramento to take a half-game edge over the Suns for seventh place in the Western Conference.
They're also 1 1/2 games behind sixth-place Golden State, though both the Warriors and Suns have a game in hand on the Mavericks.
Dallas can guarantee itself a playoff berth with a 3-1 finish. The team hosts San Antonio and Phoenix on Thursday and Saturday before closing the season in Memphis on April 16.
Dirk Nowitzki was just 5 for 17 with 15 points in Sunday's 93-91 win over the Kings, but he was picked up by Monta Ellis, who scored eight of his 23 points in the final quarter. Dallas' 40.4 field-goal percentage was its fifth-lowest in a win this season, though the squad was 13 of 31 from 3-point range with Vince Carter and Jose Calderon combining to go 8 for 16 from deep.
Nowitzki, who is 17 points shy of Oscar Robertson for 10th on the league's all-time scoring list, had averaged 28.7 points on 64.2 percent shooting in his previous three contests. Dallas had been 5-5 when he scored 15 points or fewer.
"We knew it was going to be a dog fight, but the good thing is we stayed together," coach Rick Carlisle said. "The Kings are pretty tough, but we came through. Every game has such a high level of importance. We need to play much better than tonight."
They might not need to against the defense-adverse Jazz (24-53), who occupy last place in the West.
Utah has dropped 17 of 20 and allowed 130 points for the second time this season in Sunday's 130-102 loss at Golden State. Ellis and Nowitzki may be in for big nights after the Jazz surrendered a combined 64 points to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the Warriors shot 57.8 percent.
It marked the ninth time during Utah's 3-17 stretch that it allowed a team to shoot at least 50.7 percent. Opponents are shooting 47.3 percent against the Jazz on the season, their highest since allowing the same mark in 1985-86.
Trey Burke finished with 24 points and a season-high 15 assists after totaling 13 points on 6-of-22 shooting over his previous three games.
Marvin Williams didn't practice Monday and is a game-time decision due to left knee inflammation. He combined for 40 points in the season's first two meetings in Dallas, though he was 1 for 4 with two points in a 108-101 home loss March 12.
The Mavericks have won four straight and 11 of 14 against the Jazz and were 30 for 56 from 3-point range (53.6 percent) in the first three matchups this season.
Nowitzki is averaging 26.6 points while shooting 56.7 percent over his last 18 games versus Utah.
Updated April 7, 2014