Grizzlies spoil Nowitzki's return 80-79
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki was back in uniform for Dallas, then back in the locker room long before the Mavericks' losing streak reached five games.
Zach Randolph had 23 points and 20 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies ruined Nowitzki's abbreviated return with an 89-70 victory on Saturday night.
Darrell Arthur finished with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, and Rudy Gay added 16 as the Grizzlies capitalized on Nowitzki's ejection to win their second straight and fifth in the last seven.
"Without Nowitzki creating a lot of havoc, we were able to play compact and play our game, then close back out," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said, adding that the Mavericks were short-handed with Nowitzki's limited minutes and the absence of starting center Tyson Chandler (illness).
"We played solid defense, but I'm not going to stand here and say we shut down the Dallas Mavericks' 'A' game."
Ian Mahinmi led Dallas with a career-high 17 points, hitting all six of his shots, while Shawn Marion scored 11.
Nowitzki, Dallas' leading scorer with 24.1 points per game, was back after missing nine games with a sprained right knee, and the Mavericks were 2-7 during that stretch.
But the rust from the time off was evident for Nowitzki. He looked tentative in his time on the floor, not cutting sharply or running as hard as usual.
"I've never missed three weeks in my career," Nowitzki said. "Actually, lung-wise, I was fine. I was running. I just really couldn't move much. My lungs were actually decent. I wasn't too gassed. I wasn't too tired. We've just got to get that knee closer to 100 percent."
With 8:08 left in the third period and after getting called for a foul against Randolph, Nowitzki's frustration spilled over. He took two quick technicals from official Eric Dalen and was ejected.
"I guess I didn't think it was a foul," Nowitzki said. "We talked about it, and I got tossed."
The Mavericks were trailing 53-41 at that point, and never really mustered another rally, being held to their lowest point total of the season and losing their fifth straight.
By the end of the third, Memphis was up 67-48 as Dallas looked completely out of synch. The Mavericks were 5 of 20 from the field in the quarter, and Memphis coasted home from there.
"We're not in rhythm right now," said Mavs guard Jason Terry, who had only eight points and shot 4 of 14). "Blame it on whatever you want, but, like I said, it's up to us to get it done."
Memphis used 17 first-half points and 11 rebounds from Randolph to lead 46-36 at the break.
Memphis led by as many as 15 in the first half, when Dallas committed nine turnovers and shot 32 percent.
The Mavs finished at 32 percent and were 6 of 31 from outside the arc.
"We ran our offense, and we ran it fluently," Gay said. "We got people open, and we got them open at the right time. Guys got out there and made baskets."
The Mavericks figure something has to change soon. Terry noted that there was no reason to panic since it is only midway through the season. He said things could turn around, and the Mavs could get back to where they were when they won 12 straight and 17 of 18 before Nowitzki was hurt.
"We've pretty much hit rock bottom. It can't get any lower," Nowitzki said. "We've got to scratch our way out of it."
NOTES: The Mavericks' starters, who scored only 34 points in Friday night's loss to the San Antonio Spurs, tallied 26 against the Grizzlies. Memphis had been 1-4 against other teams in the Southwest Division, and had not defeated a division opponent at home. Brendan Haywood started in Chandler's place. Chandler missed one other game this season, Dec. 7 against Golden State with a stomach illness. ... The Mavericks' previous low was 76 points in a Dec. 28 loss to Toronto, the first game Nowitzki missed after his Dec. 27 injury against Oklahoma City. ... Dallas' 32 percent shooting was a season-low for a Memphis opponent.
Updated January 15, 2011