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13-8

Spurs-Mavericks Preview

AP - Sports

With Dirk Nowitzki's planned return from a four-game absence, the Dallas Mavericks were hoping to be back at full strength for Sunday night's showdown with the Southwest Division-rival San Antonio Spurs.

Instead, Nowitzki's status is questionable and Jason Kidd now has a strained right calf to boot.

Looking to improve his conditioning and getting treatment for a sore right knee, Nowitzki has spent the last four games on the sidelines. His expected return date was Sunday, but it's still unknown if the reigning NBA Finals MVP will be ready to face the Spurs (12-8).

Also uncertain is Kidd, who injured his calf in the first quarter of Friday's 116-101 victory over Utah. Kidd previously missed four games after hurting his lower back during a 93-71 loss at San Antonio on Jan. 5.

Dallas (12-8), which was also without Delonte West (strained right hamstring) on Friday, received huge boosts from usual reserves Rodrigue Beaubois and Lamar Odom.

Starting in place of West, Beaubois posted season highs of 22 points and seven assists to go along with six rebounds and a career-best four blocks versus the Jazz. While West is expected back Sunday, Beaubois could still see plenty of minutes depending on Kidd's condition.

"(Friday) was a good night," Beaubois said. "When they give you a good shot, you've got to be ready to shoot it. ... I'm just trying to be aggressive."

Odom, who started each of the last four games in place of Nowitzki, also scored a season high with 19 points Friday while shooting 7 of 12 from the field.

"It's not all about making shots," Odom said. "It's about making the right play, making stops, making defensive plays. (Friday) I played a better all-around game."

While the Spurs shut down the Mavericks at home earlier this month, a repeat performance seems unlikely with the series shifting to Dallas. San Antonio, which is limiting opponents to 89.5 points per game on its own court, ranks third-to-last in the league with an average of 102.4 surrendered away from home.

The Spurs' road struggles continued Friday as they dropped to 2-7 away from home with an 87-79 loss at Minnesota. While its defense performed well, San Antonio shot 41.3 percent en route to its lowest scoring output of the season and got outscored 10-0 in the final 3:33.

"If we're on the road and we hold somebody to 87 points, I think we have a good chance," coach Gregg Popovich said. "I felt good about that. But like many NBA games, the last four or five minutes, whoever scores wins."

Tony Parker had another big game, scoring 20 points. He's averaging 22.3 on 49.4 percent shooting and 10.5 assists over his last four road contests.

Parker scored 33 points the last time he visited Dallas, leading the Spurs to a second straight win there. They've won four straight overall meetings in this series by an average of 11.5 points.

Nowitzki finished with six points in the Jan. 5 loss at San Antonio, his lowest output since Dec. 18, 2009.

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