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By JOHN KOSIK
(AP) -- Given the way San Antonio is playing, it's hard to imagine Dallas or Memphis ever catching the Spurs in the Southwest Division.
Defending division champion Houston has been a major disappointment, so the Mavericks and Grizzlies may consider second place rather significant.
After losing the first meeting of the season in Memphis, the Mavericks will try to maintain that spot by evening things up Friday night at American Airlines Center.
San Antonio has quietly raced out to a 22-5 record thanks to Golden State claiming all the back pages, leaving Dallas (14-12) and Memphis (14-13) neck-and-neck in the battle for second despite both hovering around .500 most of the season.
Both clubs enjoyed strong stretches last month with the Mavericks winning six in a row at one point and the Grizzlies six of seven - including a 110-96 victory over Dallas on Nov. 24 - but since those surges, the Mavs are 5-8 and the Grizzlies 5-6.
It's all added up to an odd reversal for the NBA's toughest division over the last two seasons. The only team among the Spurs, Rockets, Mavs and Grizzlies in that span that didn't have at least 50 wins was Dallas with 49 last season.
Neither Dallas nor Memphis appears capable of returning to that success, but the Mavs can start helping their cause in the division by playing much better than they did against the Grizzlies last month.
Dallas had one of its worst nights at FedEx Forum, shooting 39.0 percent while turning the ball over 19 times, which led to 21 Grizzlies points. The Mavs were also outscored 48-22 in the paint in spite of a 48-42 advantage on the glass.
By posting their worst field-goal percentage in the rivalry since January 2011, they lost their third straight and fifth in the last six meetings.
"We've got to win some games against good teams," Wesley Matthews told the team's official website. "You know, we've got an opportunity to do it on Friday. Enough talking about it. We've just got to go out there and do it. ... Everybody's got to be better all around and find ways to win, whether we're making shots or not making shots."
That may not be easy for Dallas, which shot below 37.0 percent in two of its last three losses and scored its season low in a 107-81 defeat at Indiana on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies also shot poorly in the first meeting with Dallas at 43.0 percent, but they took care of the ball with just nine turnovers - one of only three times this season they've avoided double digits.
The story's been different with 34 combined giveaways in their last two, although they picked up a 112-95 home win against Washington on Monday by shooting 56.4 percent from the field and 10 of 15 from 3-point range.
Memphis couldn't sustain that for long, though, and missed 14 of its 19 attempts from long range in Wednesday's 98-85 loss at Chicago. Mike Conley scored just eight points and went 1 for 8 from deep, while Marc Gasol had eight points and seven rebounds.
"Tough night for them," coach David Joerger said. "Neither guy is a guy that you feature and they believe that it's to score, score, score. They're pure-hearted. They're going to make the right play. Both of them had a tough night offensively."
Conley had 21 points against the Mavs in November and Gasol 15 with 10 rebounds.