One night after their superstar left early due to a knee injury, the Mavericks go for their sixth straight win and 18th in 19 games Tuesday night when they host the slumping Raptors.
Dallas (24-5) may trail San Antonio by 1 1/2 games for the Southwest Division lead and the NBA’s best record, but no team in the league is hotter than the Mavericks. They extended their winning streak to five and completed a perfect three-game road trip Monday with a 103-93 victory at Oklahoma City.
Caron Butler(notes) scored 21 points and Jason Kidd(notes) came within one rebound of a triple-double to help Dallas prevail despite losing Nowitzki to a right knee injury early in the second quarter.
“You hate to see the big German go down,” said Jason Terry(notes), who had 13 points and eight assists off the bench. “But we saw him at halftime and he was smiling. He told us, ‘No problem. You guys got this.’”
Assistant Dwane Casey, running the team while head coach Rick Carlisle recovered from knee surgery, said he didn’t believe Nowitzki’s injury was serious. While Carlisle is expected to return to the bench Tuesday, Nowitzki’s status is uncertain.
An extended stretch without Nowitzki would be uncharted territory for the Mavericks, who have had the services of their power forward for at least 76 games in each season since 1999-2000. They are 17-12 in the games he’s missed during that stretch - respectable but significantly worse than their .676 winning percentage with Nowitzki on the court.
Regardless of whether Nowitzki takes the court, the Mavericks ought to be in good shape with the Raptors (10-20) coming to town. Toronto has dropped 10 straight in Dallas since a 109-104 victory Dec. 30, 1999. The Raptors have allowed at least 105 points in each of those defeats, and an average of 114.1.
Toronto knows first-hand what it’s like to play without a frontcourt player who’s also the team’s leading scorer. Andrea Bargnani(notes), averaging 21.2 points, has missed three of the last five games due to various lower-body ailments.
Bargnani, whose availability for Tuesday is unknown, sat out Monday night’s game in Memphis with a strained left calf. The Raptors led by 12 early but lost 96-85 - their third straight loss and fifth in six games.
They established a season high in turnovers for the second straight game, giving the ball away 25 times after recording 24 turnovers in Wednesday’s 115-93 home loss to Detroit.
“The offense is just out of sync when you are missing your main guy and everything went through him before,” said Linas Kleiza(notes), who led Toronto with 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting. “You’re trying to figure out how to play without him, and maybe that’s why we had so many turnovers.”
The Mavericks host the Spurs on Thursday.