(AP) — The New York Knicks have surprisingly used stifling fourth-quarter defense during a three-game home win streak. Defending against Dirk Nowitzki at Madison Square Garden has proven to be a challenge in the past.

The Knicks hope to continue their run at home Wednesday night when they try to snap Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks’ five-game win streak.

New York (25-22) isn’t known for its defense, allowing 106.0 points per game for one of the worst marks in the NBA. The Knicks, though, have held each of their last three opponents at home to 15 points in the final period, outscoring Detroit by 18 over the final 12 minutes of Sunday’s 124-106 victory.

“What I’m noticing is that the fact that when the fourth quarter comes around, guys are really focusing in and really being sharp defensively,” forward Amare Stoudemire said. “That’s the tenacity that we have to play with, definitely in the fourth quarter, but we’re trying to put together a full 48-minute game that way.”

The Knicks will likely need to be sharp against Nowitzki, who is averaging 29.4 points in his last nine visits to MSG. That includes his lowest total in that span in the Mavericks’ last visit, a 20-point effort in 30 minutes in a 128-78 victory last season that was New York’s worst home loss.

Nowitzki is starting to find his shooting stroke since missing nine games with a sprained right knee Dec. 30-Jan. 14. He’s made 15 of 22 shots in his last two games after shooting 39.1 percent over his previous seven.

Dallas (32-15) is looking forward to what could be a challenging three-game trip with visits to Boston and Charlotte also on tap. The Mavericks completed a perfect four-game homestand with a 102-92 win over Washington on Monday.

“It was a good homestand,” coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavericks’ official website. “We accomplished our goal. We wanted to win all of the games. None of them were easy and we knew that they would not be.”

Carlisle was forced to use a new lineup when Dallas waived starting forward Sasha Pavlovic after Saturday’s win over Atlanta. Brian Cardinal made his first start since Jan. 1 and had nine points and four rebounds.

Nowitzki scored 24 points and Tyson Chandler had 18 and 18 rebounds. The Mavs are 30-8 with Nowitzki in the lineup.

While New York has had problems with Nowitzki, Stoudemire has given Dallas issues in the past with Phoenix. The Knicks All-Star forward is averaging 26.3 points on 58.6 percent shooting in his last 10 games against the Mavs.

Stoudemire was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against Detroit due to knee problems, but still has yet to miss a game after scoring 33 points.

“I feel pretty good so I was ready,” Stoudemire said. “No worries.”

The Knicks got season highs of 23 points and 14 rebounds from rookie center Timofey Mozgov, who had not played in their previous 10 games.

New York played its second straight without starting forward Wilson Chandler (sore left calf). Shawne Williams, a former Mavericks reserve, is eligible to return after being suspended one game for throwing a punch in Atlanta on Friday night.

Updated February 1, 2011
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pixy Knicks Aim To Stop Mavs Streak

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