After a stretch in which they played seven of eight games at home, the Mavericks (25-31) are still five games behind the eighth-place Houston Rockets (31-27) in the Western Conference standings -- right where they were when they began the home-heavy stretch on Feb. 6.
"Not good enough in this situation. Simple as that," Nowitzki said after the Mavericks squandered a fourth-quarter lead in Tuesday's 95-90 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. "With me missing so much time and then coming back and not being 100 percent, we were so far behind the eight ball. We knew coming out of the All-Star break, we've got to win almost every game. That's a lot to obviously expect out of this team, but we've just got to win those close games.
"We can't be talking about playoffs if we can't beat those East teams at home like Atlanta and this one. It hurts us. All these close games at home, you've got to win -- simple as that -- if you want to be a playoff team."
Nowitzki, who missed the first 27 games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, had 21 points and 20 rebounds Tuesday against the Bucks -- his first 20-20 game since 2003.
The Mavericks need to go 16-10 the rest of the season -- the equivalent of a 50-win pace -- just to bust out the razors after vowing not to shave until they reached the .500 mark. They probably need to go 19-7 -- a near 60-win clip -- to have any reasonable hopes of extending Dallas' playoff streak.
"It's not looking good for sure," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, this league is crazy and we've seen a lot. I've seen a lot. But this is definitely getting tight. If we want to make a push, we've just got to find a way to win those close games. If we can't pull it out at home, then what's the confidence level going out on the road?
"We've got eight of our next 10 on the road. We haven't shown that we really consistently can pull out close games at home, so it's going to be tough on the road. But we're going to try. I'm going to give it everything I've got and keep pushing and hopefully one of these days we can pull one out and that can get us going."
The Mavericks open a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.