MEMPHIS -- How it happened: Dirk Nowitzki left the game 51 seconds into the second quarter and it was a scramble the rest of the way for the Mavericks.
A small lineup, fueled by Rodrigue Beaubois -- who scored 12 of his 16 points in the quarter -- made 13-of-17 field goals in the quarter and erased a 27-19 deficit when Nowitzki exited to take a 49-47 lead into halftime. With Nowitzki still trying to work out his back into the third quarter, Memphis went up 67-57 before another Mavs charge, spurred by the outside shooting of Yi Jianlian and the inside activity of Brandan Wright, got Dallas to within 69-67.
Had the Mavs, whose depth is being severely tested, somehow found a way to persevere, this would have gone down as one of those inspirational wins they could have taken into an off day in New Orleans on Thursday. Shortly after the game, Nowitzki said he hurt his back taking a jumper during warmups and it tightened up. He said his intention is to play Friday at New Orleans.
Nowitzki, the Mavs' leading scorer at nearly 20 points a game, had just one point when he left. With Lamar Odom still away from the team for personal reasons, the Mavs were severely depleted at power forward, which was mostly manned by Shawn Marion, Jianlian and Brian Cardinal.
Dallas desperately needed one of those bedazzling performances from Beaubois or lights-out shooting from Terry, but they didn't get it. Beaubois looked to be on that track with his aggressive second quarter, but he finished just 7-of-16 from the floor -- 0-of-4 on 3s -- in 37 minutes. Terry had a team-high 18 points, but was just 2-of-8 from 3-point range. He heated up late, hoping for an improbable comeback, but it was too little.
The Mavs, who had 18 turnovers, were just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc.
For a third consecutive game, the Mavs were torched by the opposing center. All-Star Marc Gasol followed Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. Mike Conley had 18 points and eight assists and Gay finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
What it means: Dallas (21-15) tied its season-long losing skid for a second time with a third consecutive loss. It's the Mavs' fourth defeat in five games, equaling their worst stretch since starting the season 1-4. Dallas and surging Memphis (20-15) are now tied in the loss column.
Bold play of the game: With the Grizzlies opening things up early in the fourth quarter, Memphis guard O.J. Mayo lofted an alley-oop pass from mid-court to a rising Rudy Gay for a slam dunk, a 6-0 spurt to start the period and an 80-67 lead with 9:25 left in the game.
Stat of the day: Memphis had its way inside, scoring 62 points in the paint, spoiling Dallas' own big day inside with 52 points.