DALLAS -- If the Dallas Mavericks hope to advance to the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, now is the time to get serious.
The Mavs (20-28) have lost five of their last eight games and are closer to the last-place team in the Western Conference (New Orleans) than they are to the team holding the final playoff spot (Houston).
But with seven of their next eight games at American Airlines Center, the Mavericks have a chance to make a move.
"Every game's a Super Bowl for us, really," coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday's practice. "They're all massively important.
"So we've got to stay process-oriented, we've got to work on the things that are the things that help us play better, play well and give us a chance to win. And we've got to go whistle-to-whistle with our concentration."
First up are the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, who face Dallas at 7:30 tonight.
The Mavericks play three more home games before the All-Star Game, then play one more at AAC before hitting the road Feb. 22 at New Orleans.
"We've got a nice homestand and we need to gain some ground," guard O.J. Mayo said. "It's pretty much a must week for us.
"Obviously having some home games before the All-Star break is an opportunity for us to get some wins and protect our home court."
Carlisle said the Mavericks "need to have an edge" that was missing during Monday's 112-91 loss at Oklahoma City, Dallas' ninth loss by 20 or more points.
"To get slapped around like we did, we've got to bounce back and have some pride," Carlisle said. "No game has been easy all year, and we don't expect it to be and we don't want it to be easy.
"But when you get hit like we did [Monday] night, we've got to respond."
And how the Mavs respond over the next three weeks likely will determine whether they're serious contenders.
Kaman still out
Center Chris Kaman will miss his fifth consecutive game tonight with a concussion.
Kaman has to pass the NBA's stringent concussion-related tests before he can return.
"I'm still having a little bit of headaches, and I'm just trying to take it slow," Kaman said Tuesday. "I'm tired of sitting around.
"I'd rather be playing, but at the same time I understand that there's a proper way to do things medically to keep people safe."
Carter hopes to play
Forward Vince Carter missed practice Tuesday while visiting the team doctor.
Carter, who expects to play tonight, missed his first game of the season Monday with an illness.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760