The addition of Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks' lineup hasn't made the team look like the championship contender many thought it would be.

The loss of Dirk Nowitzki could make simply getting to the postseason a tall order.

A pair of leg injuries will keep the league's reigning MVP out Tuesday - and perhaps much longer - when the Mavericks look to avoid losing four straight for the first time this season as they host the Los Angeles Clippers.

Nowitzki was injured in an ugly fall in the third quarter of Dallas' 88-81 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, and an MRI confirmed he had a moderate high ankle sprain and a mildly sprained knee.

Dallas says he's out indefinitely. Nowitzki, who has never missed more than six games in a season, says he hopes to be out for a week or two.

"I'm trying to see the positive and it could've been a lot worse," Nowitzki said Monday, wearing a protective boot. "It could've been a season-ending injury or even career-ending."

The Mavericks (44-26) currently have the seventh-best record in the Western Conference, but the Golden State Warriors and the ninth-place Denver Nuggets are close behind. Dallas plays Denver and Golden State later this week.

"Everybody just has to pick up his game," Kidd said. "We have to do it as a team. That's the beauty of this right now. We're confident that we can do it without Dirk until he gets better."

But even with Kidd and Nowitzki playing together, the Mavericks were struggling. Since acquiring Kidd from New Jersey on Feb. 19, Dallas is 0-8 against teams with winning records.

The Clippers (21-48) certainly don't fall into that category - they've lost seven straight and 15 of 17. The Mavericks have beaten them both times they've played this season and have won the last four in the series by an average of 14.0 points.

Dallas hasn't lost four straight since dropping the first four of the 2006-07 season.

Without Nowitzki, who was scoring 23.6 points per game, Josh Howard will likely become the team's go-to scorer. Howard is averaging a career-high 19.4 points this season, but that's dipped to 16.6 points over his last eight games.

Kidd also may look to take more shots with Nowitzki out. He's taken nearly three fewer shots per game with the Mavericks, a far more talented offensive team than the one he left in New Jersey, and hasn't scored in double figures in his last nine games.

"(Playing without Dirk) definitely is a challenge. I feel we're up for it," coach Avery Johnson told the team's official Web site. "But we're going to have to look at some things, especially offensively, to get that ball to the basket and get the ball in the basket."

Los Angeles certainly knows what it's like to be missing key players to injuries. Elton Brand has been out the entire season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon and center Chris Kaman - the NBA's third-leading rebounder - has missed the last eight games with a sore back.

The Clippers only dressed eight players - the league minimum - on Saturday, and lost 83-72 to Portland. With one available player taller than 6-foot-9, they were outrebounded 53-41.

"We did not have any bigger guys to put in," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Sometimes we did a good job boxing out, but their size was just too much for us."

Corey Maggette has been the Clippers' best scoring option all season, averaging 22.4 points, and he's scored 27.5 per game over his last four.

Los Angeles has lost 16 of its last 19 trips to Dallas.


Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited