The Dallas Mavericks have made due without their superstar.
The Toronto Raptors have struggled to remain competitive, and it could get worse because of recent injuries.
Neither team will be at full-strength Friday night in Toronto, though Dallas figures to have the upper hand against a sliding Raptors team which will be very short-handed.
Plus, the Mavericks have won 14 of the last 17 meetings, including a 109-104 home victory Nov. 7 in the only one this season.
Dirk Nowitzki still hasn’t played a game for Dallas after undergoing right knee surgery in October. Nowitzki originally hoped to be back by mid-December, but coach Rick Carlisle said Wednesday there is no timetable for his return.
Even without Nowitzki, eighth in the league last season at 21.6 points per game, the Mavericks (11-11) have hovered around .500 and are currently eighth in the Western Conference.
New acquisition O.J. Mayo has assumed the lead scoring role in Nowitzki’s absence, putting up career highs with 20.9 points per game and 48.9 percent field-goal shooting.
He scored a team-high 24 on Wednesday but also accounted for a career-worst nine of Dallas’ 28 turnovers in a 117-115 double-overtime loss at Boston, ending a three-game winning streak.
Then again, Mayo also converted the tying points that forced both overtime periods while playing almost 52 minutes.
“I wasn’t tired at all,” he said. “You just can’t turn the ball over. Look at the stats, man: nine turnovers out of 27. We had plenty of opportunities to take control of that game and win. We’ve got to be better in that area. We just can’t turn the ball over.”
The Mavericks outshot them from the floor, 51.1-43.0 percent, but the turnover margin proved to be the difference as they forced just 13.
“Looking at the stat sheet, what I am is encouraged,” coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavs’ official website. “Because we had 28 turnovers, we give up 34 points off turnovers, and to be in the game with this team is encouraging to me. It means we have a lot of positive upside to us and we’ve got to find it.
“We can do it. I believe in these guys. I really do. We showed a lot of guts hanging in this thing and we’ve just got to be able to make simple plays.”
The Raptors (4-19) have lost six straight and 12 of 13.
Things don’t figure to get any easier as second- and third-leading scorers Andrea Bargnani (16.0 ppg) and Kyle Lowry (15.0 ppg) will both miss time with injuries suffered in Monday’s loss at Portland. Bargnani is out indefinitely with a torn elbow ligament and a strained right wrist, while Lowry will likely miss 10 days with a partial tear in his right triceps.
Toronto had just nine players available in Wednesday’s 94-88 home loss to Brooklyn as Amir Johnson served a one-game suspension and Linas Kleiza missed his second game in a row because of a sore right knee.
Ed Davis matched career highs with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Dallas got Shawn Marion back Wednesday, and he posted 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists after missing two games with a strained right groin.