Dallas Mavericks acting head coach Dwane Casey probably didn't think the odds would be stacked against him Monday when the Mavs hit the road to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Casey replaced head coach Rick Carlisle, who stayed home and watched the game on TV after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Wednesday. But Casey also had to replace All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who left Monday's game for good less than three minutes into the second quarter with a sore right knee.
X-rays taken after the game were negative, and Nowitzki is slated to have an MRI at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
"It kind of gave in,'' Nowitzki said of his knee. "I don't know what really happened.
"It's been bothering me the last two weeks. Maybe that's why it gave in. It wasn't bothering me to the point where I had to do something about it.''
Despite no Nowitzki for the final two-plus quarters, the Mavs had enough in their arsenal to upend the Thunder, 103-93. It was the 17th victory in their last 18 games for the Mavs, who increased their record to 24-5 after playing for the first time since last Tuesday's win in Orlando.
Dallas is also an NBA-best 11-1 on the road. In addition, the Mavs have now won eight consecutive road games for the first time since Jan. 15-Feb. 12, 2002.
With Nowitzki out, Casey was forced to use rotations the Mavs normally don't employ. But with Jason Terry shaking off a slow start and heating up in the fourth quarter, the Mavs were able to win their fifth straight game going into Tuesday's home game against Toronto.
Terry entered the fourth quarter with just two points on 1 of 9 shooting. But he tallied nine of the Mavs' first 11 points in the final period that gave Dallas a 90-84 lead with 5:50 left in the game.
Key baskets down the stretch by Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler aided the Mavs, who gutted it out at the end and defeated the Thunder for the second time this year.
Butler led Dallas with 21 points, Shawn Marion scored 20 and collected nine rebounds, DeShawn Stevenson tallied 12, Terry finished with 13 points and eight assists, and Jason Kidd came up one rebound shy of a triple-double (10 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists).
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points on 10 of 21 baskets, and James Harden came off the bench to tally 18 points.
Terry showed his penchant for coming up big with the game on the line by scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter on 5 of 8 shooting -- or one more point than the entire OKC team tallied in the final period. Terry entered the game averaging 7.1 points in the fourth period in the last 17 contests.
Now the big question facing the Mavs is the health of Nowitzki. Especially with a game Tuesday against Toronto, not to mention Thursday's big shootout at home against the San Antonio Spurs, who lead the Mavs by 1 1/2 games in the Southwest Division.
"This is a weird injury, I've never had it,'' Nowitzki said. "It's kind of day-to-day at this point.
"The X-rays were great. We'll see more about it (Tuesday).''
-- Dwain Price