The San Antonio Spurs have, in years past, used their annual Rodeo Road Trip to build momentum and swagger for the NBA season's stretch run and postseason.
But when they return home for the first time in almost a month Wednesday to play Dallas, the Spurs are in a perilous position -- on the outside of the playoff picture and desperate to make the plays and win the games.
The Spurs went 2-6 on their eight-game trip that included games against seven teams that currently hold playoff spots.
San Antonio (24-32) now sits 3.5 games behind Memphis (28-29) in the loss column and 11th in the Western Conference standings.
After winning two straight games spanning the All-Star break, the Spurs fell at Oklahoma City 131-103 on Sunday.
Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli led the Spurs in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively, in the loss. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio's leading scorers throughout the season, and point guard Dejounte Murray had lackluster games.
DeRozan finished with a season-low 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and Aldridge made only 3 of 10 shots and scored eight points. Aldridge had only three rebounds.
"We just weren't sharp at all," DeRozan said. "The whole game, it just wasn't sharp at all, and it showed. There's no excuse to it. It just wasn't sharp. We didn't play well."
Murray, who had averaged 19.8 points and shot 60 percent from the field in his previous four games, was 0 of 7 and went scoreless.
Dallas heads down I-35 after a 139-123 win over Minnesota on Monday. Luka Doncic scored 10 of his 20 points in the Mavericks' 40-point first quarter.
Despite playing just 25 minutes and sitting out the fourth quarter, Doncic also grabbed a game-high-tying nine rebounds and seven assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a team-leading 23 points for the Mavericks. Seth Curry scored 19 points, Delon Wright had 16 and Kristaps Porzingis had 15 to go with nine rebounds.
"I'm just here to have fun and play basketball," Hardaway said. "I'm here to make (Doncic's) life easier, make KP's life easier. That goes with me being vocal out there on the floor and knocking down my shots once they're given to me, and once I'm doing that, everything else takes care of itself."
J.J. Barea scored 12 points with a game-high eight assists, and Maxi Kleber scored 11 for the Mavericks, who shot 50.5 percent. Dallas (35-23) is in seventh place in the Western Conference standings.
"Obviously, people talk about me and (Porzingis)," Doncic said. "They don't talk about other players and what they do for this team, like Seth, Tim, Delon, everybody. We're a whole team together and they should be talked about more."
Doncic, who turns 21 on Friday, has reached 2,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and 750 assists in 118 games. LeBron James is the only player younger than Doncic to reach those milestones at an earlier age (20 years, 110 days). Only Oscar Robertson reached those numbers in fewer games (93) than Doncic.
--Field Level Media