The Mavericks may have problems, but when you see a team like Washington, you realize it's all relative.
The Wizards have been so bad this season that even their nickname has taken a beating. Some clever critics have renamed them the Loss-ington Lizards because there are no "W's'' associated with the team, only "L's.''
That didn't change Saturday night at American Airlines Center, even if the Mavericks did their part for a half to help out the visitors.
The Mavericks came to life in the second half and knocked out a 119-103 victory over the Wizards in a game that they could ill afford to let get away.
They were coming off a loss Thursday in New Orleans. Upcoming is a rough-looking four-game trip that starts in Phoenix on Tuesday. They got a full-out effort by Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Jason Terry chipped in 33 points and Antoine Wright had 16.
As the Mavericks start to contemplate life without Josh Howard for perhaps all of the upcoming trip, they fell back on an old recipe to fend off the Wizards.
It was like a return to the days of Nowitzki and the Dirk-ettes. He did a little bit of everything.
Actually, he did a lot of everything. And he got the previously sluggish Mavericks going at the end of the first half. It was Nowitzki who made a beautiful pass to Brandon Bass for a dunk, then scored on a drive to the bucket, which was followed by Jason Kidd's steal of the inbound pass and layup just before the halftime buzzer.
That flurry in the final 34 seconds of the half pulled the Mavericks into a tie at halftime.
From there, they slowly took control in the third quarter. Jason Terry scored seven of the points in a 9-0 blitz that pushed the Mavericks ahead 79-67 with under two minutes left in the third. Kidd had seven assists in the third period.
In the fourth quarter, the Mavericks got up by as much as 16 points, saw it cut to 105-97, but got enough offense to keep the Wizards from ever having a chance to make it tight.
The Wizards, who had played Friday night in San Antonio, where they were blasted by 22 points, didn't have enough firepower to put up a rally. They have been without starters Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood all season and also lost DeShawn Stevenson to back surgery last week.
The Mavericks could sympathize if they didn't have their own injury problems.
The biggest news of the night was Howard's absence. His sore left ankle and foot got plenty of attention from the Mavericks' medical staff on Friday and Saturday.
He also is scheduled to see a foot and ankle specialist on Monday.
At that time, the Mavericks said, they will know more about the injury.
But it's safe to say the possibility exists for Howard to miss part and maybe all of the upcoming road trip. If it fixes the problem, it would be worth it.
Asked before the game if he'd been sufficiently poked and probed, Howard said: "They're still looking at it,'' he said.
Coach Rick Carlisle didn't sound optimistic about the situation.
"I'm hoping for the best,'' he said. "But it's Mother Nature at work again. We got great doctors, but if he's in pain and it's affecting him, he can't play. So we got to get him better. Whatever amount of time that takes, it's going to take. So we'll see.''
Either way, it's nothing the Mavericks haven't been through. Saturday was the 18th one he's missed this season.
"Look, we haven't had Stackhouse all year, and he's one of our top five guys,'' Carlisle said. "People forget about that one. We'll deal with it.''
Devean George started in Howard's place as Carlisle elected to keep Terry in his customary sixth-man role.