MEMPHIS -- This is that dark alley the Dallas Mavericks were trying to avoid.
Two games into their nine-games-in-12-days journey across the United States, the Mavs are already down 0-2.
One night after losing at home to the lowly New Jersey Nets, the Mavs flew into Memphis and got whacked upside the head by the Grizzlies, 96-85, Wednesday night at the FedEx Forum.
More importantly, the Mavs lost 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki for an unknown period of time. Nowitzki played just 9:39 and went to the locker room for good with 11:09 left in the first half with tightness in his lower back.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Without Nowitzki, the Mavs, who have lost four of their past five games, struggled to stay in the game and eventually wilted down the stretch for the second straight night.
"He had a back issue and he felt something in warmups and tried to play," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
"He clearly wasn't moving the way he need to be moving, so we pulled the plug. So he'll get treatment and we'll see where we are Friday [in New Orleans]."
Nowitzki finished with just one point, and his only field-goal attempt was blocked by Marc Gasol.
With Nowitzki, Delonte West (finger) and Lamar Odom (personal reasons) out, the Mavs are three men down, and it showed Wednesday.
Memphis zipped about the court, sprinting to fill the passing lanes and gobble up steals and convert them into uncontested dunks and layups. The Grizzlies turned 18 Mavs turnovers into 19 points.
"This is one of the realities of this league," Carlisle said. "You go with the guy you've got.
"I thought we had some very good stretches. The second quarter was great, the start of our third was OK, and then in the third we had some opportunities to score and we couldn't cash in on, and then they made a run, so it was tough."
The Mavs trailed 25-17 after the first period, but led 49-47 at the half. The Grizzlies, though, carried a 74-67 cushion into the final period.
On Monday, Nets center Brook Lopez tallied 38 points. On Tuesday, Gasol contributed 22 points, 11 boards and four blocks.
Meanwhile, Jason Terry tried to keep the Mavs afloat in Nowitzki's absence.
"Even with him not on the floor, it's our same problems that we've been having," said Terry, who scored 18 points. "We've got to stick with what works, and we didn't do that.
"When we were having success there were certain situations that we were doing offensively that got us buckets, and then we went stagnant.
"We weren't doing what got us there, so regardless of who's on the floor if we're having success with something we have to stick with it."
Center Brendan Haywood, who scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, said it was clear the Mavs missed Nowitzki because of the way the offense wasn't flowing freely after Nowitzki left.
"It was very tough playing without Dirk, just because of the kind of situation," Haywood said. "It was tough for us to overcome. Basically all those things mounted up against us tonight.''
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760