Sunday, March 23, 2008

Moving on if Dirk is down

Whether or not the Mavericks are without Dirk Nowitzki for any period of time, the team knows that one man isn’t going to make up the difference.

“The whole team is going to have to step up,” Josh Howard said. “That’s our leader, that’s our go-to guy. And with him being out, it’s going to have to be a team effort now.”

Nowitzki suffered a lower left leg injury with at the 3:19 mark in the third period after blocking the shot of Spurs forward Ime Udoka. The defending MVP didn’t return to the game and will be re-evaluated by team doctors Monday.

“I fell awkwardly and my left leg got caught underneath of me,” Nowitzki said. “I am going to get re-evaluated in the morning and I hope to have more information then.”

Nowitzki has had plenty of practice dealing with ankle sprains over the course of his career, though he hasn’t missed a game this season due to injury. He came into Sunday averaging team highs in points (23.7) and rebounds (8.8), though his impact goes beyond numbers.

If he’s out, it leaves a significant void.

“We all have to pick it up and do a little more,” Jason Kidd said.

Jerry Stackhouse said: “It’s a collective effort. When we have full strength, we still think it’s a collective effort. Obviously we feel we have guys that we can go to in certain situations in games. It’s pretty much we ride the hot hand.”

Losing the team’s unquestioned leader against San Antonio was another blow on the current homestand that ends Tuesday with the Clippers. The Mavs hoped to build on their momentum against three of the league’s top teams in the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs.

“I hadn’t been on a team in long time that lost three games in row and here we are right now,” Stackhouse said. “If there is a silver lining in it, we’re still in the playoffs and we’ve still got time – time to right the ship before the postseason starts.

“I don’t think we want to limp into the playoffs where we are right now. We want to try to find some semblance of ourselves and what we think is a winning brand of basketball.”

Missing the playoffs isn’t a thought the Mavs are even entertaining right now.

“We are only concerned about playing the Clippers,” Avery Johnson said. “And I think if we can win our share of games, we’ll be in good position. We haven’t won any games here this week. Not only losing three in a row, whether it’s at home or on the road, is not a good place to be.

“We’ll talk to them again and pick them up. Hopefully, they’ll come into practice tomorrow with a renewed sense of optimism knowing that the season is not over.”

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