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Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference collide Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

No, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers aren't making a surprise visit.

The Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks in a late-night special starting at 8:30 p.m. Both teams arrive riding seven-game winning streaks.

The Jazz are 15-5 overall — no team in the NBA has more wins — and have not lost since Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks are 14-4, including 6-1 on the road.

They have not lost since Nov. 19.

During the NBA's marathon-like regular season, truly significant games with possible playoff ramifications are difficult to find.

Especially in light of the Lakers' recent problems, however, the Jazz and Mavericks find themselves playing one.

"It's a challenge for us to play this game and see where we're at," said Jazz forward Paul Millsap. "It's one of those games where you have to step it up a notch and try to beat a very good basketball team."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is certain neither team will treat the game routinely — just one of 82.

"Games against teams that are playing poorly — that are struggling — those are sometimes the most difficult games," Sloan said.

"You say, 'We'll get them at the end and win the game then.' But against teams that are playing well, like Dallas, guys get themselves ready."

Going back to the start of 2005-06, the Jazz and Mavericks have played 18 regular-season games.

Each team has won nine and lost nine.

As usual, the Mavericks are led by perennial All-Star and MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki. He averages 24.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

"We've never been able to guard Nowitzki," Sloan said. "Nobody's guarded him since he's been playing, except when he was young.

"He's just a great player. Got a tremendous shot. Can put the ball on the floor. Can shoot sideways. Off balance. All that stuff."

Millsap will be one of the players Sloan throws at Nowitzki, a 7-footer who is hard-to-guard because of his size, outside shooting touch and ability to drive to the basket.

"First off, you try to limit Dirk's touches," Millsap said. "We know their offense runs through him, so we have to do a good job of guarding him — keeping him from getting wide-open looks."

Nowitzki has plenty of help, however.

Veteran Jason Kidd, who ranks second behind John Stockton in career assists, is one of the NBA's best-ever point guards.

Meanwhile, Jason Terry, Caron Butler and Shawn Marion average double figures while newcomer Tyson Chandler adds size to a team that has needed more in previous seasons.

"They've got a loaded roster," Millsap. "They have a full team. Your best bet is to get out there and do the best you can to guard them on defense."

Said Sloan: "They've got a good basketball team. They play well together and know what they are doing. … They're certainly difficult for us to guard."

The good news?

Utah is playing well on defense. The Jazz have held nine straight opponents under 100 points.

"It has something to do with the emphasis we have put on it," said assistant coach Phil Johnson. "And I think guys are buying into it. …

"Coach holds them accountable for what's going on during the game and I think we've got some players that are trying harder."

It's been an about-face for the Jazz on defense, who allowed 110 points in its first two games of the season during losses to Denver and Phoenix.

"The thing I've been most impressed with is how our players have stayed together," Sloan said. "They've stayed together as a group of guys. We could have exploded early in the season. Things could have gone south real easy. But that didn't happen."

Mavericks at Jazz

P At EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • Friday, 8:30 p.m.


Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM

Records • Jazz 15-5, Mavs 14-4

Season series • First game

Last meeting • Jazz, 104-92 (Feb. 1, 2010)

About the Jazz • They have won seven straight by an average of 14.1 points. … They are 5-0 in games decided by five points or less. … During the last three games, Andrei Kirilenko is averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots.

About the Mavericks • They have won seven straight by an average of 8.7 points. … Of their four losses this season, only one has been by more than five points. … They have lost five straight in Utah, dating back to Jan. 9, 2007.