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Dirkless Mavs are painful to watch

DALLAS -- Consider Monday’s mostly Dirkless win over the Oklahoma City Thunder an inspirational aberration.

The truth of the matter is that the Mavericks aren’t very good without MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki. Actually, that’s putting it a bit too gently.

This is a bad basketball team when Nowitzki isn’t on the floor, especially on the offensive end.

When their superstar is a spectator, the Mavs get outscored by 13.7 points per 48 minutes, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They outscore their opponents by 13.3 points per 48 minutes with Nowitzki in the lineup. That 27-point differential is the highest among qualifying players this season.

The Mavs are actually worse defensively without Nowitzki, which might be considered a mild surprise. But it should shock absolutely nobody that Dallas’ offense totally goes in the tank when the franchise’s all-time leading scorer sits.

With Nowitzki, the Mavs are an efficient offensive machine, averaging 104.7 points per 48 minutes while shooting 49.9 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. Without him, the Mavs are an inefficient offensive mess, averaging 83.9 points per 48 minutes while shooting 42.1 percent from the floor and 29.0 percent from 3-point range.

And the Mavs were even worse than that while setting a new season scoring low during Tuesday night’s 84-76 loss to the injury-ravaged Toronto Raptors.

“I thought we were in too much of a try-and-make-things-happen mode and not enough trusting the team and the system and really working together,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s one of those things that can happen, and it hurt us. It’s on me for not doing a better job to avert it.”

Carlisle sure could use an assist from Casey Smith, the Mavs’ head athletic trainer widely considered one of the league’s best at his job.

The Mavs have proven scorers other than Nowitzki. However, the 7-footer is arguably the Mavs’ best bet to create his own shot, at least until dynamic guard Rodrigue Beaubois recovers from a broken foot that has sidelined him all season. There’s no debate that Dirk’s presence provides guys like Jason Terry and Caron Butler a lot more room to work.

Nowitzki looked nice on the bench with his gray suit and lavender tie and pocket square, an outfit that was the source of much amusement among the Mavs just before tipoff. And the goofy German did an excellent job entertaining the television audience during his third-quarter stint as a color commentator on the broadcast.

But the Mavs hope Nowitzki can put his modeling and broadcasting careers on hold as soon as possible and get back to his day job of filling up the basket. He’s considered day-to-day with a mild sprain of his right knee, making him questionable for Thursday’s wild West showdown with the San Antonio Spurs.

“We’re going to have to get used to playing without the big fella for a while,” big man Tyson Chandler said after the ugly loss to the Raptors. “We had trouble adjusting with our floor spacing and getting off good shots, and I think it caught up to us by the end of the game. ...

“Taking him out of the equation changes a lot of things. We’re going to have to make adjustments.”

There isn’t an offensive scheme that can replace perhaps the most unique 7-footer in NBA history. That was made painfully obvious while Nowitzki nursed his sore knee Tuesday night.