SAN ANTONIO — One of the great mysteries of the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs’ first-round playoff series has been Dirk Nowitzki’s inability to become a major factor.Nowitzki, the Mavs’ all-time franchise leader in several categories, has been held below 20 points in each of the first four games. The only other time Nowitzki has gone four straight playoff games without scoring at least 20 points was in 2001, when he failed to reach that plateau in the final game of a first-round series against Utah and in the first three games of a second-round series against the Spurs.Coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged that Nowitzki has had some good looks at the basket, and added: “I’m working to try to help get him more, and we’ll continue to do that.”Nowitzki is just 25-of-65 (38.5 percent) from the field in this series. More telling: He’s just 1-of-5 from 3-point range.Are the Mavs concerned?“I think he’s still getting some good shots,” forward Vince Carter said. “He’s missing some easy bunnies that I think he’s rushed because now when he’s open, it’s like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to get it up.’ ”Nowitzki admits the Spurs pose a strong challenge in his bid to help the Mavs get out of the first round for the first time since their championship season in 2011.“They force me to play off the dribble,” he said. “It’s no secret at this point I am not the greatest driver anymore.“They are just taking my air space away. That’s what the good teams have done the last couple of years, and if it’s not there I’m going to swing it and let someone else make a play.”Nowitzki averaged a team-high 21.7 points during the regular season, but is putting up just 16 points per contest against San Antonio. The 16-year veteran acknowledged it’s not all about him putting the offensive burden on his lofty shoulders.“I want to look for my shot, but I don’t want to come out there hoisting stuff,” Nowitzki said. “I have been around long enough where I make the right play.“It’s not all just hoisting shots out there. I want to take good looks I think I can make.”Blair suspendedThe NBA suspended backup center DeJuan Blair for one game without pay for kicking San Antonio center Tiago Splitter in the head during Monday night’s 93-89 Game 3 loss to the Spurs.Blair will sit out Wednesday’s game and will be back in uniform Friday night in Dallas.With 3:08 remaining in Monday’s game, Blair and Splitter wound up on the floor while scrambling for a loose ball. In the commotion, Blair kicked Splitter in the head, but said after the game that it was an accident.Blair was ejected and finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. The Mavs were ahead 83-82 before Blair’s left foot made a solid connection with Splitter’s head.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice