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Dirk-Less Dallas Unable to Stop San Antonio, 99-93

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The crowd was electric for the rivalry game between the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs.  Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki for the second consecutive game and the Mavericks battled as long as they could before the Spurs delivered a frustrating 99-93 defeat to the Mavericks.  Dallas had multiple chances over the course of the game where they could have pulled ahead of the Spurs but they were unable to do enough to break through.  "We just couldn't get over the hump," said Coach Rick Carlisle.  "It was tough, it was frustrating, but our guys kept battling."  The Mavericks were out-rebounded 50-35 in the defeat.  The loss marked only the second time in the season that the Mavericks have suffered back-to-back losses.

Without Nowitzki, Dallas went to Brian Cardinal for the start at the power forward position.  For Cardinal, it was the first time he started a game since April 15, 2009 when he was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.   "It's tough to fill Dirk's role," said Cardinal.  "I don't think that can happen with just one guy.  In order for us to succeed without Dirk we're going to have to find a way and we've got a group of awfully talented guys in here and we can without him, but we look forward to the day he returns but until then, we're going to have to grind it out and get some wins."  The Boilermaker was effective with his hustle and shot-making.  Cardinal finished the night with 9 points and 3 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. 

Caron Butler picked up the scoring slack for Mavericks as he led the Mavericks with a season-high 30 points.  Butler's previous high mark for scoring was 23 points.  "(Caron) likes the responsibility of performing and being the lifeline; that's one of the things I love about him," Carlisle said.  The game marked the first 30-point effort for Butler.  He's now scored 20-plus points in three of his last four games.

Despite the energetic start for the Mavericks, the long-range shooting and bench play for the Spurs were huge factors in allowing them to hold off the Mavericks.  Gary Neal came off the bench and led the Spurs with 21 points on 6-10 shooting, including 5-8 from the three-point line.

The three-point shot has been a dangerous weapon for the Spurs this year.  Over the year, the Spurs have shown a strong sense of firepower from three-point range. Coming in to tonight's game, San Antonio had shot 40.2% from three-point range.  Matt Bonner ranked 1st in the NBA in three-point percentage (51.6%) and rookie Gary Neal ranked 1st among rookies (46%).  The Spurs are currently leading the league in three-point field goal percentage.  If the Spurs can keep the pace through the season, it would rank as the 8th best in NBA history.  

Even though the Spurs have changed their philosophy to a more up-tempo style they went old-school in the third quarter and used Tim Duncan as the focal point in the offense.  The Spurs finished that quarter with 18 points and Duncan had 8 of them.  "I played some great defense on him and he made some tough shots," Tyson Chandler said in regards to going up against Duncan.  "Whenever he gets it going like that, you just have to pat him on his back."

Jason Terry has been known as a game-changer like Nowitzki in the sense he can create space on the floor for his teammates and carry the team offensively but in the Mavericks' time of need without Nowitzki, Terry was unable to deliver.  Terry scored 8 points on 3-16 shooting from the field.  "I just kept telling (Terry) in the second half and fourth quarter, just keep aying your game and staying aggressive because you're going to break out of this," said Carlisle.  "It was a tough night for him."

Alexis Ajinca got minutes for the second consecutive game and led to the first Did Not Play - Coaches Decision for Brendan Haywood"Ajinca played aggressively and made some really good things happen," said Carlisle. Ajinca's ability to stretch the floor with his range ultimately created the opportunity for him to get minutes over Haywood and Ian Mahinmi.  Carlisle told the media that Haywood was informed prior to the game that he would not be a primary member of the rotation based on the match-up but the possibility would still be open for him to get in the game.

Lost in the shuffle of the tough loss was the fact that Jason Kidd recorded his first triple-double of the season, 106th of his career, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists in the losing effort.  His 106 triple-doubles rank first among active players and third all-time.  "They come and go. It’s a triple double. I’d rather us win and not get a triple-double," Kidd said. "It’s a triple-double in a loss, so it doesn’t mean too much."

Dirk Nowitzki worked out his sprained knee before the game but was unable to give it a go.  Despite missing the past two games, he will travel with the team on their two-game road trip, that means there is a possibility he'll be able to return.  While the big German is unable to play, Rick Carlisle understands that things can and will be tough, "without Dirk in the lineup, the margins for error are extremely slim."  With out without Nowitzki, the Mavericks will look to continue their success on the road into 2011 with back-to-back games in Milwaukee and Cleveland.