Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS, TX – DECEMBER 28: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reaches for a rebound against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center on December 28, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – “It’s not pretty right now,’ Dirk Nowitzki said of the Mavs after Friday’s 106-85 home loss to Denver. ‘It’s not pretty defensively, not pretty offensively, not pretty on the glass.’

And not pretty in terms of The UberMan’s game, either. It’s coming along slowly. Just like the rest of this ‘not pretty’ team.

Dirk Nowitzki’s summation is correct. The Dallas Mavericks lost this game in every possible manner. … Offensive, defense, rebounding … and yes, in the Hurry-Up-And-Be-Dirk-Again Department, too.

Nowitzki, making his home debut after returning to the floor this week following knee surgery, played just 18 minutes in the loss to the Nuggets. The UberMan played the final five minutes of the third, and in large part to the blowout nature of the game, did not appear again.

“It was too much tonight,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “That was my decision. It was back-to-back games and he isn’t limping or anything, but he just can’t give us what everyone expects him to give.”

Oh, it was “too much,” alright. Too much for the other guys who did play in the fourth, and too much for the other guys who participated in the other three quarters as well.

Nowitzki scored his five points in the first quarter and finished 2-of-10 from the field with one rebound, one assist and one steal.

“I’m going to work myself into better shape, obviously and can help a little more, but right now I’m not helping that much,” Nowitzki said. “I was a step slow. … I had really no lift on my jumper, so everything was in-and-out, but that last little thing is missing.

“So, it’s ugly.”

Well, Dirk, join the club.

The Mavs have lost eight of their past nine games. The gauntlet continues Sunday against the Spurs — who earlier this week drubbed Dallas by 38 points.

To find a way to return to competitiveness, Dallas will need Dirk. … and offense. … and defense … and rebounding. … Oh, and protecting the ball would be helpful, too.

O.J. Mayo led the Mavs with 15 points but was turnover-plagued again. (He had six; Mayo has had at least five turnovers in four straight games. The last time a Mavs player did that? Jason Kidd in February 1996.) Chris Kaman had 12 points and eight rebounds. Darren Collison and Vince Carter each scored 10 points.

But none of that was close to enough as Danilo Gallinari made 14 of 23 shots and scored a career-high 39 points, Andre Iguodala had 20/8, and Kenneth Faried had 11/18. All of those numbers also added up to a 60-43 Denver rebounding margin.

“All I can say is that they have a hell of a rebounding team,” forward Shawn Marion said. “And if we don’t take the initiative to collectively rebound as a team it’s going to be like that.”

This is the fifth straight loss for a Dallas team that is now 12-18 and is growing far to accustomed to blowouts, having lost by 20-plus seven times already. Dallas has lost eight games by 19-plus — making the Mavs by far the “leader” in that dubious category.

But within Dirk’s harsh evaluation, there is also leadership and there is also hope.

“It’s not pretty right now, obviously,” Nowitzki said. “It’s not pretty defensively, not pretty offensively, not pretty on the glass. We’ve got to keep on working and keep on plugging. Eventually we’ll work ourselves out of it. … This is not the time to go separate. When it’s tough, you’ve got to pull together and hopefully we can pull through.”