DALLAS -- That dark cloud continued to hang over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
With Danilo Gallinari scoring a career-high 39 points, the Denver Nuggets ran over the Mavs 106-85 before a sellout crowd of 20,439 at American Airlines Center.
It was the eighth loss in the past nine games for the Mavs, who are 12-18 and have dropped a season-high five games in a row.
And with the Mavs closing out the 2012 calendar year at home at 6:30 p.m. Sunday against a San Antonio Spurs team that walloped them by 38 points last Sunday, a rainbow may not be appearing on the horizon anytime soon.
Friday's loss was a step back because the Mavs were impressive for the most part during Thursday's 111-105 overtime loss at Oklahoma City. But whatever the Mavs had left in the tank from Thursday, they must have left it at home by the time they played the Nuggets.
"I think we just had a little bit of a letdown," said Darren Collison, who contributed 10 points and four assists. "But it's really no excuse on a back-to-back; you've kind of just got to block that [fatigue] stuff out and you've got to be ready to play. We didn't bring that same energy that we did the night before."
For whatever reasons, the Mavs can't win for losing. For this team, wins have become as scare as finding a snowball in Phoenix in the middle of August.
Over the past 18 days, the only victory the Mavs have recorded was a 107-100 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 18. Since then the Mavs have lost five games by an average of 18 points per game.
"It's discouraging," Collison said. "Some nights you're going to have nights where the other team is just making every shot and you're playing defense.
"The other thing you can't do is you can't feel sorry for yourself and you can't get too low on the low. You can't really get too high on the high, too."
Friday's game started unraveling for the Mavs when Gallinari made a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left in the second quarter. Andrew Miller then stole Vince Carter's pass, which led to a dunk at the buzzer by Gallinari that quickly stretched Denver's lead from three points to eight points.
Gallinari then opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and Andre Iguodala sank four 3-pointers in the third period to stake the Nuggets to an insurmountable 87-70 lead going into the final quarter.
"The second half we got off to another slow start, then battled back to six, but we couldn't get any traction," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I thought there were stretches where we played hard and really were in the right place doing the right things, and they just rose against us and hit some ridiculous shots."
O.J. Mayo broke, somewhat, out of his slump, scoring a team-high 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. But the turnover bug bit the Mavs' shooting guard again as he committed six more turnovers Friday for the second straight game, giving him 24 turnovers over the past five games.
Meanwhile, this was the first time Dirk Nowitzki played a game in Dallas since Game 4 of the Mavs' first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City back on May 5.
Playing just his third game since undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery, the 11-time All-Star was greeted with a thunderous ovation when he entered the game for the first time with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter and the Mavs already behind 21-8.
Nowitzki played just 18 minutes and scored only five points on 2-of-10 shooting.
In all, this was another meltdown by Dallas, which has lost seven games this season by 20 or more points. To make matters worse, Carlisle ran out of timeouts with 6:04 left in the game, but intentionally called another one with 3:02 left and his team down 100-82, which resulted in an automatic technical foul.
That about summed up this dreadful night for the Mavs, who were pounded on the backboards 60-43.
"It's another tough loss," forward Shawn Marion said. "We've got to shake it off and be ready to play on Sunday."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760