Tight-lipped over Dirk Nowitzki's status

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasn't talking about Dirk Nowitzki and his chances of playing tonight as the Mavs try to snap a two-game skid at the Indiana Pacers.

It is expected that Nowitzki will miss his eighth consecutive game tonight since spraining his right knee on Dec. 27.

If that's the case, the Mavs will hope their leading scorer can return Friday night for a crucial third meeting with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have opened a five-game cushion in the Western Conference as the Mavs have gone 2-5 without their leading scorer, plus the additional loss of Caron Butler.

If the Spurs win at Milwaukee tonight and the Mavs lose to the Pacers, Dallas will head to San Antonio six games back, a sizable deficit even with more than half the season to play.

While Nowitzki's status for tonight is uncertain, one thing is for sure: The Mavs won't let their franchise player on the court if there's any risk of re-aggravating the knee.

After playing the Spurs, the Mavs continue their four-game road trip with the second half of a back-to-back at Memphis on Saturday night followed by Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at Detroit.

The Los Angeles Lakers then make their first appearance at the American Airlines Center on Jan. 19. The Lakers (28-11) are one loss behind the Mavs (26-10) in the standings.

Nowitzki, averaging 24.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, has already missed a career-high number of games due to the injury.