With more than half the season gone and the Dallas Mavericks outside the Western Conference playoff picture, Dirk Nowitzki understands the importance of his team's upcoming four-game road trip.
The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the teams they're chasing.
Dallas seeks its seventh victory in nine games overall and third straight over Portland as it opens its trip Tuesday night.
Nowitzki still isn't 100 percent after sitting out the first 27 games following offseason knee surgery. Not coincidentally, the Mavericks (19-25) could be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season - Nowitzki's second in the league.
"I'm trying to get myself going and hopefully chase the eighth (and final playoff) spot and really make a good run once I'm all the way back (from injury)," Nowitzki told the team's official website.
Dallas has started to make a move - its only two losses in the last eight were against Oklahoma City and San Antonio - and got 18 points ap...