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Timberwolves-Mavericks Preview

AP - Sports

Shawn Marion's recent play is helping the Dallas Mavericks overcome the absence of Dirk Nowitzki.

The Mavericks look to win their fourth straight overall and third in a row without Nowitzki when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, with the night starting with them receiving their championship rings.

Nowitzki has missed the last two games in what has been projected as a four-game stretch to work on his conditioning and allow his sore right knee to improve. Coach Rick Carlisle, however, said that the superstar could be out longer depending on the amount of improvement he demonstrates.

Marion has made it easier for Nowitzki to take his time, averaging 19.3 points over his last four contests. He had season highs of 29 points and four 3-pointers in a 93-87 win over Phoenix on Monday.

"My teammates were looking for me,'' Marion said. "I've been able to do a lot of different things on the floor."

Ian Mahinmi scored 17 points and fellow reserve Jason Terry added 12 in the Mavericks' seventh straight home victory. Dallas' reserves are averaging a league-high 44.3 points per game.

The Mavericks (11-7) also played their fourth game in a row without reserve Vince Carter, out with a sprained left foot.

Wednesday will be a special night for the Mavericks, who will receive their rings in a pregame ceremony. They raised the championship banner before a season-opening loss to Miami.

The second celebration was planned since J.J. Barea, a key reserve on the championship squad, is returning to Dallas for the first time since signing a four-year contract with Minnesota (7-10) before this season.

Barea, however, is out with a strained left hamstring and is part of a lengthy Timberwolves injury list. Michael Beasley has missed 10 straight games with a sprained right foot while Brad Miller (knee) and Martell Webster (back) have yet to see action.

In addition, starting forward Wesley Johnson missed his first game of the season Monday due to an illness. All of those absences proved too difficult to overcome in a 107-92 home loss to Houston.

"I have three guards and no small forward," coach Rick Adelman said. "We tried to adjust but you're putting people out of position. ... We just didn't have enough answers."

Kevin Love had a season-high 39 points and 12 rebounds while rookie Ricky Rubio handed out 12 assists, but Minnesota suffered its second straight loss.

"It's frustrating,'' Rubio said. "When you win, no matter how you did, you feel good. When you lost, no matter what you do, you feel bad. That's what it is."

A short-handed Timberwolves team figures to have a difficult time duplicating a 99-82 home victory over Dallas on Jan. 1 when Beasley, Johnson and Barea saw action. Love, who leads the NBA with 16 double-doubles, had 25 points and 17 boards as Adelman earned his first win with Minnesota.

The Mavs fell for only the second time in their last 20 meetings with the Wolves. They have taken 10 of the last 11 home matchups in the series.

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