Dirk Nowitzki Returns From Injury, But Mavericks Lose Again

Dirk Nowitzki returned after nine games off due to a knee sprained, but Dallas suffered another loss.

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Dirk Nowitzki Returns From Injury, But Mavericks Lose Again

Dirk Nowitzki missed nine games with a knee sprain that had left the Dallas Mavericks superstar listed as day-to-day. He finally returned to the court Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies, but Dallas' losing streak stretched to five games as Memphis earned an 89-70 win.

The Mavericks were just 2-7 during Nowitzki's absence; even with Saturday's loss, the team is 24-6 when Dirk plays. He wasn't himself against the Grizzlies, scoring seven points on 2-7 shooting. Nowitzki's night didn't last too long; he was ejected early in the third quarter for arguing a foul call, and finished with just 14 minutes played. Dallas went on to suffer as it had during Nowitzki's absence, which is to say the team could not score.

The loss dropped the Mavericks to No. 5 in the West. The league-leading San Antonio Spurs may very well have run away from the Mavericks, who had been in a dog fight with the Texas rivals before Nowitzki's injury. Over that nine-game stretch without Dirk, Dallas lost more games than San Antonio has in 40 games this season. The Mavericks are now 7.5 games behind the Spurs, but just three games behind the L.A. Lakers for the No. 2 spot.

If there's a silver lining, the Mavericks have to date played the league's No. 2 most difficult schedule according to Basketball-Reference.com. The Lakers have played the league's easiest schedule.

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Dirk Nowitzki Injury: MRI Reveals Strained Knee, Knocks Maverick Out Of Tuesday's Game

Dirk Nowitzki has a strained right knee and will miss the Mavericks' Tuesday game against the Toronto Raptors, the team has announced. Nowitzki is listed as day-to-day.

Nowitzki fell to the ground early in the second quarter of Dallas' Monday night win over the Oklahoma City Thunder after being fouled by Serge Ibaka, who was defending a Dirk jump shot. Immediate X-rays showed no structural damage to Nowitzki's knee, but the forward sat out the remainder of the game as the Mavs pulled away for the 103-93 victory.

Nowitzki said after the game that his knee had been bothering him for a couple weeks. Getting rest should not be an issue for the German -- Dallas has seven games in the next two weeks. The only back-to-back for the Mavericks between now and Jan. 14-15 is next weekend, against the Bucks and Cavaliers, the former a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team and the latter potentially the worst squad in the league.

Tuesday's game will be Nowitzki's first DNP of the season. He missed just two games over the last two seasons, and has played in 97 percent of the Mavericks' regular season games since 1999.

For more Mavs news and analysis, join Mavs Moneyball.

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Dirk Nowitzki Injury Could Test Mavericks' Depth, Open Door For Shawn Marion

Dirk Nowitzki will undergo an MRI Tuesday to assess a knee injury suffered in Monday's win over the Thunder. Nowitzki has been remarkably reliable over the course of his career, appearing in 97 percent of the Mavericks' regular season games since 1999. But should the knee injury, which Nowitzki called "scary" and "weird" after Monday's game, keep the German forward out for any span of time, Dallas' famous depth will be tested.

The Mavericks made a point to shore up its frontcourt this offseason, re-signing Brendan Haywood to a long-term contract, trading Erick Dampier for the younger and more athletic Tyson Chandler and green French center Alexis Ajinca, and signing two insurance policies in former Spurs prospect Ian Mahinmi and wily veteran Brian Cardinal.

But should Nowitzki be sidelined, the most important Maverick big man will be Shawn Marion.

The Mavericks executed a sign-and-trade for Marion before the 2009-10 season, hoping to revive The Matrix's flagging career by slotting him at small forward as a replacement for the then-injured (and later traded) Josh Howard. Marion was seen as the ace defender on the wing the Mavericks needed to press against the L.A. Lakers at the top of the Western Conference. While Marion did indeed defend quite well, a tough season for Jason Terry and the ineffectual trade for Caron Butler sunk the Mavericks in the end.

This season, Marion has been moved to the bench, where he backs up Butler and Nowitzki. Marion's best work in Phoenix came as a power forward next to Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, with Steve Nash orchestrating the whole shebang. Marion was arguably the fulcrum that allowed the Suns to succeed at the level to which they did, as Matrix was the rare two-way player who could effectively defend three positions while finishing the break efficiently and hitting threes at a good clip. Though he was never a great one-on-one scorer, Marion did get plenty of buckets to go with plenty of rebounds. In 2005-06, with Stoudemire on the shelf due to microfracture surgery, Marion averaged 21 points and nearly 12 rebounds.

Of course, Marion was 27 years old -- dead in his prime -- back then, and is 32 today. The move to small forward has surely contributed to his decreasing rebound numbers, but age likely has a role in the decomposition of Marion's other skills. That said, he still a solid performer and few teams -- the Celtics and the Lakers come to mind -- can replace an MVP-caliber big man with an able-bodied producer of Marion's level.

If Marion is forced to replace Nowitzki at the power forward position, Butler and Jason Kidd will be depended upon for more offense. It wouldn't be a surprise, actually, to see Terry moved into the starting line-up for designated shooter/defender DeShawn Stevension. Terry is having a terrific season off the bench, holding down the reserve scoring game until Rodrigue Beaubois returns from offseason surgery.

For more updates on Nowitzki's injury, follow this StoryStream. For more Mavericks news and analysis, check out Mavs Moneyball.

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Dirk Nowitzki Injury: Maverick Star Will Have MRI On Knee Tuesday

Dirk Nowitzki will have an MRI after injuring his right knee in Monday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Maverick forward's knee appeared to buckle as Nowitzki fell backward after being fouled by Serge Ibaka on a mid-range jumper early in the second quarter of Dallas' win.

Nowitzki hardly seems confident the injury will clear up immediately, as is evident in these quotes from the Dallas Morning News:

"It was a scary play," Nowitzki said. "This is a weird injury that I've never had before, but we'll see where it is tomorrow and go day-to-day from there."

In addition to being one of the best scorers of this century, Nowitzki has been remarkably durable throughout his NBA career. Dirk has missed just 32 of 981 regular season games since entering the league in 1999, a 97 percent availability rate.

Nowitzki is currently averaging 24.1 points a game on a career-best 54 percent shooting. The Mavericks have the league's third-best record at 24-5, and Dirk is considered a top-tier MVP candidate. He won the award in 2007. Though Nowitzki is the team's best player without question, Dallas does have the advantage of remarkable depth, with Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood both coming off the bench on the frontline.

For more Mavs news and analysis, join Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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