Mavs’ Nowitzki Returns to Starting Lineup; Odds vs. Hornets

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Dirk Nowitzki has come a long way on his full road to recovery, but Saturday’s slated start against the New Orleans Hornets marks the end of his lengthy rehab stint.

Nowitzki has been used sparingly in the lineup since his return from arthroscopic right knee surgery, appearing in the last six games while averaging 22.2 minutes per contest. In those games, the Mavericks are an ugly 1-5 with the lengthy German averaging 10 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. On Wednesday, he made his biggest leap forward since his injury, scoring 19 points in 29 minutes against the Miami Heat in an overtime loss.

Though, Dallas’ head coach Rick Carlisle indicated that he still wanted to monitor Nowitzki’s minutes before making any drastic moves.

“It’s a 48-minute proposition,” Carlisle said. “Starting him doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s just part of the process of reintegration. We just feel like we’re at the point where it’s time to do that, and he feels the same way.”

Still, the Mavericks (13-20) have a long way to go if they want to make any noise in the Western Conference division. But they have a manageable schedule ahead of them in the next few weeks, starting with the dreadful Hornets (7-25).

The Mavericks are predicted to be 8-point favorites at home in Sunday’s clash between division foes. They do have a better scoring duo in Nowitzki and guard O.J. Mayo, who’s come on strong in the veteran forward’s absence. And competing against the No. 19-rated defense (allows 100.4 ppg on the road) should make it a high scoring affair for Dallas (ranks No. 9 in scoring at home).

Meanwhile, the Hornets have dropped six straight games on the road against the Mavericks over the course of five seasons. But having back Eric Gordon could bolster their offensive efficiency (which ranks last in the league). In his first two games back from right knee surgery, he scored a combined 35 points.

The Mavericks should take advantage of a team that’s still trying to find its identity in the Western Conference. They should be able to beat their season average in points, which gives an edge when determining the over/under, which was last listed at 198.

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