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Nowitzki-less Mavericks Host Thunder

(Sports Network) - Injuries have hit the Dallas Mavericks hard over the past couple of weeks and the schedule makers have done the club no favors as it gets ready to resume a three-game homestand against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With superstar Dirk Nowitzki still sidelined with a sprained right knee and Caron Butler done for the season after undergoing surgery for a ruptured tendon in his right knee, the Mavs were able to persevere and take the opener of their residency against Portland on Tuesday.

Jason Terry hit several key shots down the stretch in that one and finished with 18 points, as the Mavs held on for an 84-81 win.

DeShawn Stevenson contributed 18 points and Tyson Chandler finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds for Dallas, which has won two straight and improved to 19-4 in their last 23 games overall.

"The one thing we can do as team is get better defensively," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. "Other than the first few minutes of the game, I thought we really battled, we played a really gritty type of game, and that's what we're going to have to do."

Nowitzki, who is averaging 24.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, hasn't played since Dallas' 103-93 victory over Oklahoma City on Dec. 27. The former MVP played just 12 minutes in that game before being injured and has now missed the team's last five contests. Nowitzki is getting closer, however, and is listed as day-to-day.

"Hopefully we get him back soon," Terry told the Mavericks' website.

Dallas, which is 14-6 in Big D, will finish its homestand against Eastern Conference heavyweight Orlando on Saturday.

The Thunder, meanwhile, will be aiming to salvage the finale of a three-game road trip and avoid a season-high third straight loss tonight.

Okie City lost its second consecutive contest in Memphis on Tuesday when Zach Randolph scored 31 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies past the Thunder, 110-105.

Durant poured in 28 points and grabbed nine boards and Russell Westbrook contributed 28 points and seven assists for the Thunder, who were coming off an embarrassing 101-74 setback at San Antonio and are now 10-7 as the visitor on the year.

"We played hard all the way through," Durant said. "I made some bad mistakes in the fourth quarter and we lost ... We still put ourselves in position to win, but you have to give them credit."

Dallas has already topped the Thunder twice in Oklahoma City this season but Scott Brooks' club did manage to halt a nine-game skid in north Texas back in April of last season.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.