The Mavericks will begin an important five-game home stand Thursday night against the red-hot Rockets without their star Dirk Nowitzki. The NBA suspended him Wednesday afternoon for one game for the flagrant foul Monday night against Utah's Andrei Kirilenko.
Nowitzki will miss his first game of the season, a big one against the surging Rockets, who enter tonight's game against Indiana on a 15-game winning streak and two games ahead of the Mavs in the loss column. The Mavs have lost two in a row and three of their last four.
The Flagrant 1 foul called on Nowitzki when his right arm caught Kirilenko around the neck and flipped him backward to the floor was upgraded to a Flagrant 2 by Stu Jackson, the NBA's excutive vice president for basketball operations, earning the suspension. Kirilenko had to be taken to the hospital for evalution. He will miss at least a week with a sprained hip.
The incident occurred with 7:04 remaining in the first period of the Mavs’ 116-110 loss to the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Nowitzki tried to prevent Kirilenko from scoring an easy basket underneath.
Nowitzki practiced Wednesday with the team, but the penalty was doled out several hours later so Nowitzki was not available for comment.
After the game, Nowitzki said the foul was not intentional and that he felt badly that Kirilenko was injured on the play.
On Tuesday, Houston star Tracy McGrady said he believed Nowitzki should be suspended because of the severity of the foul. He later joked that he'd be heart-broken if Nowitzki wasn't suspended because he preferred to play the Mavs at full strength.
The Mavs (39-22) talked Wednesday about getting on a roll to improve their playoff position, which has fallen to seventh in the West, but tied in the loss column with eighth-seed Golden State (37-22). The Mavs are 4-4 since acquiring Jason Kidd, with three tough road losses at San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah in the past week.
They're viewing the upcoming stretch of nine of 10 games at home -- with the only road game at struggling Miami -- as a chance to mesh as a team and rise in the standings.
Nowitzki has been playing superbly over the last 10 games with five 30-plus outings and just one game with fewer than 27 points, that being 23 against the Jazz. On the season, he's averaging 23.8 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Without their leading scorer, Josh Howard, coming off a 25-point game against the Jazz to break out of a scoring funk, will be looked on to carry more of the scoring load along with Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse.
Brandon Bass or Devean George will likely slide Nowitzki's starting power forward spot.
-- Jeff Caplan