MEMPHIS -- Rick Carlisle didn't have to impose any playing time restrictions on Dirk Nowitzki in his first game back since Dec. 27. The 7-footer took care of that on his own.
Nowitzki was tossed by referee Eric Dalen with 8:07 to go in the third quarter. He was hot over a defensive foul called on him while trying to guard bullish Memphis forward Zach Randolph, who finished with 23 points and 20 rebounds. Nowitzki felt like he was being held every time the Grizzlies tried to screen him and that he was then wrongfully hit with a foul.
He voiced his displeasure enough to draw successive technical fouls for the automatic ejection. His night ended having played just shy of 15 minutes and scoring seven points on 2-of-7 shooting with five rebounds.
As for his recovering sprained right knee, Nowitzki deemed it "OK," but said his movement was compromised.
"It's all right. It's not great. I don't think I can really move that much," Nowitzki said. "I've never missed three weeks in my career. Lung-wise, air-wise, I was fine. I was running, I just couldn’t really move much, but I think my lungs were decent, I wasn’t too gassed. I just need to get the knee closer to 100 percent and then we’ll be OK."
Nowitzki drew the first technical, continued to stay on Dalen's case and got hit with the second. Nowitzki didn't say another word. He turned, walked off the court and disappeared into the tunnel.
"I guess I didn’t think it was a foul," Nowitzki said after the 89-70 defeat, the Mavs' fifth consecutive loss. "So we talked about it and he tossed me."
Although Dallas was struggling to score and trailed by double digits through most of the first half, Nowitzki's ejection was a big blow. He had just hit a 3-pointer about 50 seconds earlier that offered promise that he might heat up. When he got ejected, the Mavs, already playing without starting center Tyson Chandler due to illness, trailed 53-41, hardly an insurmountable deficit.
Two-and-a-half minutes later, the Grizzlies led 59-41 and the rout was on with Memphis extending the lead all the way to 23 points.