The injuries are piling up for both Dallas and Cleveland, but the absences of three key players can't make the results any worse for the Cavaliers.
The short-handed Mavericks, meanwhile, have stumbled to a season-worst three-game losing streak they'll try to halt Sunday night in Cleveland -- without Caron Butler and perhaps without Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
Dallas (24-8) hasn't won any of its three games without Nowitzki, who suffered a sprained right knee during Monday's 103-93 win at Oklahoma City.
The task got even tougher Saturday at Milwaukee, with Marion out due to a thigh bruise and Butler missing the final three quarters of a 99-87 defeat with a knee injury. The trio averages 49.9 points and 17.5 rebounds.
"We're short on bodies now, having some injury problems," Nowitzki said. "But we've got to fight through it."
It's uncertain if Nowitzki or Marion will suit up Sunday as the Mavericks try to avoid their first four-game slide since Jan. 9-14, 2009. What is certain is that Butler won't play, as the forward could be out at least a couple of months with what has been initially diagnosis as a torn patellar tendon.
Guard Jose Juan Barea helped compensate with a career-high 29 points off the bench Saturday, but Dallas' depleted frontcourt struggled. With power forward Brian Cardinal making his second start and playing a season-high 34 minutes, the Mavericks were outrebounded 51-31 and outscored in the paint 50-24.
That may not be as big of a problem against the crumbling Cavaliers, who were without two of their top three scorers and leading rebounder Saturday for a 100-91 loss at Chicago.
Anderson Varejao (9.8 rebounds per game) is recovering from a broken cheekbone and will miss Sunday's game, while guards Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson -- who combine to average 29.0 points -- are day-to-day.
With little-used Leon Powe and Manny Harris in the starting lineup, Cleveland still managed an eight-point halftime lead against the Bulls with what coach Byron Scott called "a great effort by a team that is obviously depleted with injuries."
The Cavaliers (8-25), though, were outscored 32-9 in the third quarter en route to their 16th defeat in 17 games. They've sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference while dropping six in a row, but three of the last four losses have come by single digits.
"It's not like we've been playing horribly of late," forward Antawn Jamison said. "There have been a couple of stretches that dictate the outcome of the game. (Saturday), the third quarter was the difference."
Jamison, averaging 19.9 points in his last seven games, has not faced Butler and Mavericks center Brendan Haywood since Washington traded the three former teammates away last season.
The Cavaliers have been successful against Dallas in recent years, winning four straight before a 102-95 road loss in the last meeting Dec. 20, 2009, but LeBron James made major contributions in all of those victories.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, overcame Nowitzki's absence due to an elbow injury in last December's win.