Short-handed Mavs host surging Suns

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki is battling a sore right knee and will need some time off to get back to last season's championship form.

The Dallas Mavericks were able to win without him Saturday in New Orleans and will take their chances again tonight at home versus the Phoenix Suns. Nowitzki is expected to miss the next few games and is averaging 17.5 points this season as opposed to 23.0 ppg a year ago.

Dallas has won seven of nine games and went 2-2 on a recent four-game road trip, culminating with an 83-81 victory over the Hornets. Delonte West and Lamar Odom both scored 16 points, while Shawn Marion totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Mavericks, who overcame 4-of-26 shooting from beyond the arc and the loss of Nowitzki.

"We've gone through this last year when we lost him for nine games," Mavs guard Jason Kidd said of his teammate. "We felt like we have a lot of talent here, and we feel like our depth is one of our keys. Everybody just has to step up."

The Mavericks will begin a four-game homestand Monday versus the Suns, Timberwolves, Jazz and Spurs, and are 6-2 as the host this season. They have won six in a row in Big D since dropping the first two contests there. Odom made his first start of the season in place of Nowitzki and the Mavs are 2-0 when he scores 15 or more points.

Dallas has held the last 14 opponents to under 100 points, which is a new franchise record for consecutive games holding teams under the century mark. It will receive its championship rings Wednesday versus Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the Suns will close out a five-game road trip tonight and is 2-2 so far on the trek after back-to-back wins over New York and Boston.

In a 79-71 victory over the Celtics on Friday, Marcin Gortat had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Steve Nash contributed 11 and nine assists for the Suns, who have won two in a row since a five-game skid and improved to 3-5 as the guest.

"We were in a tough place there," said Nash. "To get two (wins) is huge for us just because we are struggling to win games period."

Jared Dudley added 12 points in a winning effort for a Suns team trying to win three straight games for the first time this season tonight. Gortat has registered seven straight double-doubles for the first time in his career and has pulled down 12-plus rebounds in four straight games.

Phoenix suffered a 98-89 loss in Dallas on Jan. 4 this season and has lost six straight and 12 of the last 15 matchups in this series. The Mavericks have prevailed in each of their last eight home bouts with the Suns, and have scored 100 or more points in 26 of the past 29 encounters with Phoenix.

The Suns have not defeated the Mavericks at American Airlines Center since March 14, 2007, when they recorded a 129-127 double-overtime victory.