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Defense, rebounding problematic for Mavs

DALLAS -- There was a lot of talk about trying to stay optimistic and keeping a positive vibe in the Dallas Mavericks locker room after yet another double-digit loss as 2012 comes to a close.

The Mavericks have dropped eight of nine games, including five straight. And while all five opponents were playoff teams a year ago, this Mavericks team knows it's capable of playing much better. Outside of the overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday, the Mavericks haven't been very competitive during the losing streak. They've lost four games by 10 or more points and three by 15 or more, including Friday's 106-85 whipping at the hand of the Denver Nuggets.

"It’s not pretty right now, obviously," Dirk Nowitzki said. "It’s not pretty defensively, not pretty offensively, not pretty on the glass. We’ve got to keep on working and keep on plugging. Eventually we’ll work ourselves out of it."

Nowitzki conceded that he wasn't "helping that much" and would work his way into better shape. But even a healthy Nowitzki couldn't stop this team's slide right now. They were blistered in the paint on Friday, getting outscored 52 to 34. Worse than that was the margin on the boards, where Denver out-rebounded Dallas 60 to 43.

"It's a problem that isn't going to go away by talking about it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said about his team's rebounding. "It's a collective problem we have to address collectively. And I know we can do it. We just have to find a way."

The Mavericks have been out-rebounded in all five losses during the streak. The Nuggets were bigger and more aggressive on the glass, and it showed on Friday.

"All I can say is that they have a hell of a rebounding team and if we don't take the initiative to collectively rebound as a team, it's going to be like that," said Shawn Marion, the team's leading rebounder at eight per game. "We don't have the most athletic guys, the biggest guys, so when we play teams like that it shows. We've got to find other ways to make adjustments more effective out there, and we have to collectively do it together. When we don't do it together, it shows."

The other glaring problem Friday: perimeter defense. The Mavericks couldn't stop Danilo Gallinari. He was 14-for-23 shooting, including 7-for-11 from behind the 3-point line. And many of those 3-point attempts weren't contested. Gallinari scored five points in the final six seconds of the first half to make a three-point game an eight-point game and zap any momentum the Mavericks had built to take to the locker room at intermission.

For now, the Mavericks are preaching that they have to keep working and do whatever they can to get better and snap out of it.

"We have to keep positive energy in this locker room," O.J. Mayo said. "We're all frustrated. We all want to win. It’s been tough. We can turn it around. We’re going to turn it around. But it takes small steps. We can’t get it all back in one game or one practice, but every little thing can make a change."

Carlisle made it clear that he hasn't lost confidence in his team's ability to get things going in the right direction.

"We’re a long way from being a good basketball team. I know that," Carlisle said. "It’s a lot of work, but we’re going to stick with it. This is a difficult stretch, a very difficult stretch. Denver is a good team. But we’ve got to be better than we were tonight."