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2012 NBA power rankings: Dallas still falling without Dirk

Losing eight of their last 12 games, the Dallas Mavericks have come down to earth after a solid start to the year without Dirk Nowitzki.

US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Mavericks are reeling, and with Dirk Nowitzki's return still on the backburner there's been a return of reserved expectations following a surprising 4-1 start to the year. SB Nation's Seth Rosenthal dropped the Mavs from 19th to 20th in this week's NBA power rankings after Dallas lost two of three games.

If the Mavericks (8-9) hope that the signing of Derek Fisher will help solidify the team, well, there's not a whole bunch of optimism they'll completely turn it around.

The signing of Derek Fisher (and subsequent burial of Darren Collison, Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois) seems indicative of an identity crisis: What's the point? What is there to gain? Then again, the Mavs may still look in the mirror (a huge mirror) and see a solid enough team that eschewing the cultivation of youth for an outside shot at a few extra wins -- again, with the shaky assumption being that the presence of Derek Fisher moves the needle toward more wins, if at all -- makes sense.

Dallas fell this past week to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls before recovering at home to beat the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

In the two losses, the Mavs struggled to shoot the ball, especially from three-point range. They hit just 26 percent of their attempts against the Sixers and 22 percent against the Bulls.

The wins and losses have also been predicated on O.J. Mayo's success in the scoring department. While he has filled up the box score, his scoring output in the losses (11 points and four points against Philadelphia and Chicago) is nothing compared to his 27 points scored against the Pistons in Dallas' win.

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