Mavs' Marion returns; Butler sits

LOS ANGELES -- Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion returned Monday night after a three-game absence due to a strained left oblique muscle.

Marion, who was injured in the April 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, started against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. He scored 21 points in the Mavs' 117-94 win.

"I feel like I'm ready to test it out," said Marion before the game. "It feels good. Once I get warmed up, it hurts just a little bit, but I'm all right."

The Mavs, however, were without starting guard Caron Butler, who has a right hip flexor strain. Rookie Rodrigue Beaubois replaced Butler in the starting lineup, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds.

Butler would have been able to play with the injury if this were a playoff game, but the Mavs opted to rest him for precautionary reasons.

Marion has participated in a light practice and two shootarounds during this three-game road trip. He went through an extensive workout before Saturday night's win over the Sacramento Kings, but the Mavs exercised patience with him because they wanted to make sure Marion was healthy for the playoffs.

"I think it's good for him to get a couple of games under his belt before the playoffs," coach Rick Carlisle said before the game. "We'll hold our breath and cross our fingers and hope he gets through tonight. He's a big part of our team, so it's important to have him back."

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.