Nowitzki back in Mavs’ lineup at Memphis

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MEMPHIS, TENN. (AP) - Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup and started Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, then was ejected in the third quarter.

Nowitzki, the Mavericks’ leading scorer with 24.1 points per game, had missed the last nine games with a strained right knee.

“He’s going to be active, and he’s going to play,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He will start.”

But with 8:08 left in the third quarter, after getting called for a foul against Memphis forward Zach Randolph, Nowitzki’s frustration with his rusty play spilled over. He took two quick technicals from official Eric Dalen and was ejected, finishing with seven points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.

The Mavericks were 2-7 in Nowitzki’s absence, including a 101-89 loss at San Antonio on Friday night. In that game, their starters were limited to 34 points.

Nowitzki, a 7-footer from Germany, was hurt Dec. 27 in the second quarter of a game at Oklahoma City. He had previously avoided injury through much of his career, never missing more than six games in a season.

Nowitzki’s shots were falling as he warmed up before the game, though he seemed a bit tentative in moving on the court at first.

Carlisle said there was a “ballpark” on the number of minutes Nowitzki would play, but wouldn’t discuss specifics.

“We’ve got to be sensitive to the fact that he’s been working on his own to get back,” Nowitzki said. “He hasn’t had a real practice. He did a little scrimmaging, a little 1-on-1 (Friday). Tonight, he’s going to be back into an NBA game, and I think that we all need to be aware that that’s a challenging situation.

“This is certainly an important step in the right direction for us.”

The Mavericks were without starting center Tyson Chandler, who stayed at the hotel with an illness, Carlisle said. Brendan Haywood started in Chandler’s spot.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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