Nowitzki suspended one game

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki has received a one-game suspension for striking Utah's Matt Harpring in the face with a backhanded swipe Friday night.

The league announced the suspension three hours before the Mavericks' 12:30 p.m. PT Sunday tip-off against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Mavericks were not informed of Nowitzki's enforced absence until Sunday morning.

"It was not surprising, just because of the way the rule is written," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had contingency plans, based on whether or not there was a suspension, so it wasn't like it ruined our preparation. We had a feeling this could happen. But, for the record, I don't believe it was an intentional thing. I think it was a reactive thing."

Josh Howard picked up the Mavs with 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists on Sunday, however, and Dallas beat Los Angeles 98-76.

The league office began reviewing Nowitzki's flagrant foul/penalty 2 on Harpring on Saturday. The foul resulted in Nowitzki's ejection early in the fourth quarter of Dallas' 97-88 defeat on Friday night.

After a similar incident involving Boston's Kevin Garnett and Milwaukee Andrew Bogut in November, resulting in a one-game suspension for Garnett, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson told ESPN.com that league rules make a suspension automatic "when a player swings or punches with a fist or open hand, regardless if it makes contact or not."

With that in mind, the Mavericks were bracing for a suspension but were hopeful that a ruling would come Saturday, as opposed to the morning of a lunchtime game.

Nowitzki was ejected for swinging his arm in response to under-the-basket contact from Harpring. Video replays confirmed that although it was a backhanded swipe, Nowitzki made a closed-fist connection with Harpring's face on his follow-through.

It's the second successive season that Nowitzki has been suspended after an incident in Utah. A rough takedown in March of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko -- for which Nowitzki was not ejected -- also resulted in a one-game suspension.

The one-game suspension this season will cost Nowitzki 1/110th of his $18,077,904 salary, which comes to $164,344.58.

Nowitzki did not speak to the media Friday after the game and declined comment when reached Saturday. But team officials confirmed that their star player was interviewed Saturday by league officials for his account, because every flagrant foul/penalty 2 is reviewed by Jackson's office.

Carlisle told reporters in Salt Lake City on Friday: "It appeared to me to be accidental, but they said his fist was closed, so it was an automatic flagrant 2. They went to the video. I said it wasn't intentional. They said it didn't matter. … I don't think the intent was to strike Harpring in the face. Dirk doesn't have any pattern of that type of stuff. It was a microcosm of the night, really."

Complaints about Utah's physical play, especially at home, are nothing new.

Harpring, however, insisted that Nowitzki "just turned around and threw a nice little punch."

Said Utah forward Kyrylo Fesenko, whose offensive rebound over Nowitzki preceded Nowitzki's tangle with Harpring: "I get the rebound. I maybe push him in the back a little. Then probably Matt pushed him a little. I don't think it was something really brutal. It happens all the time."

Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.