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W2W4: The 3-ball and Dirk Nowitzki's return

DALLAS -- The last time the Dallas Mavericks saw the San Antonio Spurs they were buried under an avalanche of 3-pointers. The Spurs made 11 of their 16 in the first half to cruise to a 93-71 win. The Mavs made 1-of-19.

Since that Jan. 5 game in San Antonio, the Spurs are 7-6 and the Mavs are 9-3. The two teams enter Sunday's game tied for the Southwest Division lead.

The Mavs have been surprisingly -- shockingly, even -- poor from 3-point range this season. Dallas is 21st in the league from deep at just 31.4 percent. And that's after they finally got it cranked up Friday to the tune of 11-of-18 from beyond the arc for an 18-point advantage over the Utah Jazz.

Lamar Odom, Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois each hit three and combined to go 9-of-14.

"The shots we got were in rhythm, we didn't force too many and we made them," said Terry, who was in a 4-of-28 slump over the previous four games. "We have to continue to take good shots. I forced a lot of tough, contested ones and you know you don't practice those, so those are low percentage."

Against the Spurs these days, an accurate 3-ball is imperative to success.

Records: Spurs (12-8); Mavs (12-8)

When: 5:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: ESPN, FSSW

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Can there be any more intrigue than Dirk Nowitzki's expected return? The 7-footer hasn't played in more than a week, sitting out the last four games to go through a personal training camp designed to help strengthen his bothersome right knee. Dirk's main complaints were that he couldn't bend his knees to his liking for proper lift on his jumper, and that he didn't trust his knee to put the ball on the floor and drive, a significant part of his offensive arsenal. The last eight days of off-court work that involved a lot of weight-lifting and running have put him in physical condition to compete, Nowitzki said Thursday. And while he wouldn't guarantee that he will be back in the lineup today as the original plan was drawn up, it certainly appears he will give it a go.

Key matchup: Tony Parker vs. Rodrigue Beaubois

This is the veteran face of French basketball against the baby face. Parker has to do it all these days for San Antonio as the Big Three is not what it once was. Manu Ginobili remains injured and Tim Duncan is playing well, but he's not the dominant force he once was. Parker is averaging team highs with 17.7 points and 7.8 assists. Beaubois has begun to get more playing time and really starting to come on at both ends of the floor. He's coming off season highs with 22 points and seven assists Friday night, and if Jason Kidd is unable to play due to a strained right calf Beaubois could get the starting nod at point guard.

Injuries: Mavs -- F Dirk Nowitzki (sore right knee) is probable; G Jason Kidd (strained right calf ) is doubtful; G Delonte West (sore right hamstring) is probable. Spurs -- G Manu Ginobili (fractured fifth metacarpal) is out; G T.J. Ford (torn left hamstring) is out.

Up next: Mavs at Phoenix Suns, 8 p.m., Monday