A week ago Dallas was flying high. Now, the Mavericks are in the midst of a season-worst three-game losing streak as they invade Cleveland with injuries threatening to derail what was looking like a spectacular season.
Already without superstar Dirk Nowitzki (sprained knee) and fellow forward Shawn Marion (bruised thigh), the Mavs lost swingman Caron Butler to a knee injury in a 99-87 setback in Milwaukee on Saturday. Earl Boykins returned from a one-game suspension and scored eight of his season-best 26 points in that one.
Jose Barea had a career-high 29 points for the Mavericks, who are now 4 1/2 games behind sizzling San Antonio in the Southwest Division. Jason Kidd had 14 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and six steals for Dallas while Tyson Chandler scored 11 for the Mavs, who were a dismal 9-of-32 from three-point range.
But the story was Butler, who walked to the locker room with 2:47 left in the opening quarter after injuring his right knee and never returned. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called the injury "potentially serious."
"We will find out (Sunday) where things are at, probably later in the day," Carlisle said.
The Mavs haven't lost four in a row since January 9-14, 2009.
The Cavs, meanwhile, have their own injury problems and dropped their sixth straight game in Chicago on Saturday, 100-91. Derrick Rose scored 28 points to go along with 11 assists in that one as the Bulls used a strong third quarter to take control.
J.J. Hickson led the Cavaliers with 21 points in a reserve role. Antawn Jamison added 19 points and nine rebounds and Leon Powe scored 14 for Cleveland, which played the game with a limited lineup.
The Cavaliers were without guards Daniel Gibson (bruised thigh) and Mo Williams (hip flexor strain). The team also made the trip without forward Anderson Varejao, who suffered a non-displaced maxilla (cheek) fracture in the Cavaliers' loss to Charlotte on Dec. 29.
"One of our biggest problems is still communicating out there on the floor," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said. "We have to do a much better job of communicating, and that's all five guys."
Varejao has already been ruled out of tonight's game while Williams and Gibson are day-to-day and will be game-time decisions.
Dallas snapped a four-game skid to the Cavs with a 102-95 win in Big D just over a year ago.