The Dallas Mavericks held a 20-point going into the final quarter in Portland, reason enough to allow Dirk Nowitzki the rest of the night off.
But even as Dallas had to hang on for what would be a 96-91 win that keeps alive the club's slim hopes for the playoffs, Dirk remained under wraps.
Turns out, he complained of stiffness in the ankle in the second quarter, has team medical personnel work on it at halftime, was not much of a factor in the third and turned cheerleader in the fourth.
"I'll be fine,'' he said after the game, indicating the ankle problem may be related to his bone-spur issues. "I'll definitely play Wednesday."
Carlisle had initially said it was a problem with Dirk's foot, but also suggested that while the team is obligated to not "mess around'' which such things, the injury is not a serious one. Dirk, who considers himself a "quick healer'' after frequently battling through ankle ailments in his career, played 24 minutes and was 2-of-7 shooting for six points.
The Mavs are 38-39, 2.5 games back of Utah (in eighth) and three games back of the Lakers (in ninth). Dallas players would like to get to .500 to mark that beard-shaving milestone.