The battle to avoid the basement in the Western Conference takes on a head-to-head feel when the Dallas Mavericks host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. The Mavericks sit percentage points ahead of the Kings after dropping eight of their last 10 games.

Dallas is playing better of late and followed up a win over the Los Angeles Lakers with a tight loss at the Houston Rockets on Sunday. "I'm definitely proud of our young guys, being able to come here and play against a team with a lot of talent and a lot of great players. I thought we battled," Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes told reporters after the loss. "It's huge for us, especially at a time where some of our vets weren't able to travel and weren't healthy. I thought our young guys stepped up, they played well, and they got good experience against a team that's going to be contending." The Kings are trying to get their young players some good experience as well and traded away veteran point guard George Hill at the deadline to open more minutes for rookie De'Aaron Fox. The 20-year-old scored 23 points in 35 minutes in a 111-106 loss at Minnesota on Sunday.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBCS California (Sacramento), FS Southwest (Dallas)

ABOUT THE KINGS (17-38): Fox is getting used to running the team on his own as coach Dave Joerger opens the offense. "A lot of times coach just gives me the freedom," Fox told reporters. "Sometimes I'll look over at the bench and he'll look at me or he won't say anything, he just lets me run the team every once in a while. It's great for me, it's allowed me to grow as a player, grow as a point guard and my teammates are starting to trust me." Fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is starting alongside Fox in the backcourt and added 13 points and a season-high eight assists on Sunday.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (18-39): Dallas has its own rookie point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., who collected 16 points and 11 assists while going up against future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in Sunday's setback. "I loved Smith's game," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. "You know, the balance between scoring and playmaking was excellent. It's a lot to ask to come in here and win the game, but to basically compete the whole way, hang around and make them play the whole game was good. I thought our guys got better tonight." Dallas was operating on Sunday without Dirk Nowitzki, who was out with a left ankle effusion and is day-to-day.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Mavericks PG J.J. Barea (oblique) and SG Wesley Matthews (lower back) are both day-to-day.

2. Kings PF Zach Randolph is 4-of-6 from 3-point range in the last two games.

3. The teams split the first two meetings this season, with Sacramento earning a 93-88 win at Dallas on Oct. 20.

PREDICTION: Mavericks 106, Kings 103