A hobbled Dirk Nowitzki isn't ideal for the slumping Dallas Mavericks, who have few off days for him to recover during a busy stretch.
They haven't needed much - or any - production from Nowitzki when facing the New Orleans Hornets this season, though.
The defending NBA champions are in a slump and unsure of the status of their superstar for Friday night's matchup at New Orleans.
Dallas' stretch of nine games in 12 days has gotten off to a rough start, beginning with a 93-92 home loss to New Jersey on Tuesday. It got worse in Wednesday's 96-85 defeat at Memphis when Nowitzki left early in the second quarter with lower back tightness that originated in pregame warmups.
Coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki's status for Friday is questionable.
"He felt something in warmups and tried to play," Carlisle said. "He clearly wasn't moving the way he needed to be moving, so we pulled the plug. He'll get treatment and we'll see where we're at Friday."
The loss was the third straight overall for the Mavericks (21-15), matching a season high. While Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois combined for 34 points off the bench, Brendan Haywood was the only starter in double figures with 10.
The Mavericks average 94.0 points but were held to their lowest total in five games with Nowitzki missing most of the contest. Fellow starting forward Shawn Marion has struggled during the three-game skid, shooting 28.9 percent while averaging 8.7 points.
They should have a good chance to end their rough stretch against the Western Conference-worst Hornets - with or without Nowitzki.
Dallas beat New Orleans 96-81 on Jan. 7 despite 10 points and 2-for-11 shooting from Nowitzki, then escaped with an 83-81 win over the Hornets on Jan. 21 as Nowitzki sat out with a sore right knee.
The Mavericks, though, had Lamar Odom for both of those games, but his leave of absence for personal reasons has decreased the team's depth. Odom has missed the past three games, and the team said Friday he will play at least one in the D-League before returning to the Mavs.
New Orleans (8-27) also is short-handed, missing Eric Gordon and Emeka Okafor due to injuries, and has dropped four of five. Wednesday's 95-84 loss to Toronto dropped the Hornets to 3-15 at home.
Jarrett Jack came off the bench for the sixth consecutive game due to sore knees which caused him to miss six of the previous seven. He scored 10 points but shot 3 for 12, then took blame for the defeat.
"I'm going to put this one on my shoulders squarely," Jack said. "This team looks to me for a lot, and I have to be the captain. I want to be that guy. I want the ball."
Marco Belinelli scored 20 points and Chris Kaman added 17 with 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double for the Hornets, who average a conference-low 88.2 points. They were outscored 33-15 in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
New Orleans' offensive woes may not bode well against a Dallas team holding opponents to a West-low 91.0 points per game.
Dallas has won three straight meetings, which is the longest winning streak for either team in the series since the Mavericks won 21 straight from 2000-07.