Dirk Nowitzki misses Mavs game

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki was ruled out for Thursday night's Dallas Mavericks game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It was the sixth consecutive game the Mavs' leading scorer missed since he sprained his right knee Dec. 27 in Oklahoma City. That matches the most games Nowitzki has missed in a regular season since 2001-02.

"He's getting gradually better, but he's not ready to play yet," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the morning shootaround.

Nowitzki spent the shootaround riding the stationary bike and was the first player to head to the locker room, having worked up a good sweat.

The Mavs are 2-4 without their starting power forward after Thursday's 99-95 loss, having previously won two in a row against Cleveland and Portland. The Thunder presented a much more difficult challenge with NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and Co., who were seeking revenge for two home losses to Dallas.

Nowitzki left the last game early in the second quarter, but the Mavs still managed to win with a lockdown fourth quarter on Durant.

Shawn Marion continued to start at power forward, with DeShawn Stevenson starting at small forward and Jason Terry at shooting guard.

The Mavs were looking for some offensive punch to offset Nowitzki's absence. They were averaging 99.5 points per game with their star but only 88.8 since he went down, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Their field goal percentage has also dropped, from 47.9 percent to 42.6.

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.