Dirk Day-To-Day With Knee Sprain

Dirk Nowitzki's knee injury has been diagnosed as a sprain and he will miss tonight's game while being listed as "day-to-day'' from there. While The UberMan takes care of his knee, can his teammates take care of the visiting Raptors?

The MVP candidate departed Monday's game in OKC in the first half and the 24-5 Mavericks nevertheless manhandled the Thunder, 103-93.

Tonight – at DB.com Night at the Mavs, with 300 or so DB.commers in attendance – Dallas goes for its sixth straight win and 18th in 19 games … with Dirk as a spectator.

"Hopefully,'' he said before the MRI, "I'll be back in action soon."

The Mavs' chase of San Antonio continues; the Spurs are 1.5 games up in the Southwest Division and own the NBA's best record. And maybe there will be big-time movement there on Thursday, when the Spurs come to the AAC.

And heck, maybe there will even be a taped-up Dirk, ready to go for that one. (I stand by my "optimistic prediction'': Nowitzki in a knee brace, wanting to give it a try on Thursday.)

But most immediately, Dirk needs to recover. ... and the Mavs need to handle Toronto without him.

Head coach Rick Carlisle missed Monday's game while recovering from knee surgery and is expected to be back tonight. How will his Mavs fare without Nowitzki?

In this decade, Dirk has always played at least 76 games a year.

When he plays, Dallas wins 67.6 percent of its games.

When he misses, Dallas wins 58.6 percent of its games.

Maybe the bigger issue: In his career, he has missed just 32 games to injury in his 13-season career. That ironmanly run is the third-lowest total among active players with at least 10 years of NBA experience.

That would seem to present a challenge for Dallas while the Mavs play without him and his MVP numbers (24.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 54.5-percent shooting) … though the results in OKC and the ineptitude of the Raptors might suggest otherwise.

The Raptors are 10-20, they've lost 10 straight in Dallas, and Toronto's visits to Dallas perennially mean bushels of points allowed. In the last 10 home games against the Raps, Dallas is averaging 114.1 points per.

Additionally, Toronto has injury concerns of its own. Andrea Bargnani, the team's leading scorer at 21.2 points – and a guy often compared to Dirk – is questionable for tonight.

One issue to watch: How Carlisle retools the rotation. He seems likely to jump Shawn Marion into the starting lineup at the 4, and has options behind him that include Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca.

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