The Mavs May Survive This Dirk-less Stretch, Thanks to a Crappy Batch of Opponents

Sometimes all you can do is take the win and move on.

The Mavs were at home Monday night against the Suns, winning 93-87 in an ugly game in front of a seemingly disinterested crowd. It was the Mavs' second straight game without Dirk Nowitzki, who is sitting out at least four games (and maybe more) to rehabilitate a sore right knee and to improve his conditioning. Without Nowitzki, the Mavs are 2-0.

But let's not imply that the Mavs are a better team -- or even a particularly good team -- without Nowitzki. It just that the Suns, like the Hornets on Saturday, and like their upcoming opponent the Minnesota Timberwolves, are worse. The four-game stretch happens to be a pretty navigable one for Dallas, even without Nowikzki and Vince Carter, who is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle.

The awfulness of those opponents is no coincidence, of course.

"It was calendar-driven, and I listened to my trainer," head coach Rick Carlisle told the assembled press last night about sitting Nowitzki. "It just made sense, and he wasn't right."

Nowitzki is averaging just 17.5 points a game this year, his lowest since the 1999-2000 season. "There are some conditioning things, and some things with the knee, and they need to be resolved. It's pretty much that simple," Carlisle said. Nowitzki is slated to address the media on his status Thursday.

Whatever the team's record without him, the fans miss Dirk. Even the the kiss-cam couples garnered more applause than the play on the court last night, and the loudest ovation of the game took place with a little more than two minutes to go in the first half, when Nowitzki, at the end of the bench in a navy blazer, momentarily popped up on the Jumbotron.

The fans who paid attention may have noticed that Lamar Odom keeps coming into his own (11 points last night), big men Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi keep overachieving (combined for 27 points and 15 rebounds), and Shawn Marion keeps playing out of his mind (a season-high 29 points, including a period in the 3rd when he absolutely overdosed, scoring 14 points in six minutes).

Oh -- and as you may have noticed, the Mavericks will receive their championship rings on Wednesday before tipping off against the Timberwolves.

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