Nowitzki 'very doubtful' for Game 6

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2003

DALLAS (AP) Dirk Nowitzki is not expected to play in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson said Wednesday.

''I'd say very doubtful is the way we have to approach it, but let's still wait and see,'' Nelson said.

''If he can't play his normal rotation, I don't think he should play.''

Nowitzki said he planned to rest his sprained left knee until a pregame shootaround Thursday night. The San Antonio Spurs lead the series 3-2 and can advance to the NBA Finals with another win.

''It will probably come down to how I feel right before the game,'' he said. ''The thing is, I can't have any pain. I can't go out there with the mindset that it's not great and I can't really push off. I've got to know I won't have any pain once I'm out there.

''I'm not really confident in my knee right now. But I'm sure by tomorrow I'll feel a lot better.''

Dallas is 1-1 without its leading scorer and rebounder, falling to the brink of elimination, then overcoming a 19-point deficit Tuesday night to stretch the series to a sixth game.

The longer it goes, the better chance the 7-foot All-Star has of making it back. Doctors initially said the injury requires 10-14 days to heal; Thursday will be the sixth day since he was hurt. A seventh game would be Saturday night, or eight days into the healing process.

''If I'm trying to shoot and I try going down on my left leg, that's when it hurts,'' he said. ''The lateral movement is fine. But it's going down and squatting for my shot that gives me the most problems.''

Nelson said he will make the final decision on whether to use Nowitzki, but he'll seek input from doctors, trainers and, of course, Nowitzki.

Nowitzki hoped to not even miss a game. But after his knee began shaking just from standing on the sideline through the fourth quarter of Game 4, he realized Nelson made the right call in making him sit out. He was optimistic about Game 5, too, then got sore just from squatting.

''I think he knows now I was right in holding him back when he wanted to play,'' Nelson said. ''He really couldn't and I knew that. So now I think I'll get a different answer from him, not an answer full of emotion, but really whether or not he's able to play at 100 percent.''

The ''normal rotation'' Nelson referred to is an average of 42.5 minutes this postseason, the most on the team. The figure is inflated a bit by Nowitzki playing all 58 minutes in a double-overtime game against Sacramento in the second round.

He's also averaging 25.3 points and 11.5 rebounds.

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