The Mavericks can use any break they can get against the archrival Spurs, and as both teams prepare for Friday's 7 p.m. CT tip in Dallas, the Mavs catch one: Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich didn't make the trip and aren't expected to be available for the game.

The Spurs announced on Thursday that all-time big man Duncan and best-in-the-biz coach Popovich did not travel with the club and will miss the Friday game at Dallas.

That was the case for the Spurs on Wednesday as well but San Antonio still beat New Orleans.

The Mavs have been a pushover this season for the 34-11 Spurs, who are in a virtual tie with OKC for the NBA's best record.

Duncan has a bum left knee. Even with the problem, he's at 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Popovich is ill and will again be replaced by assistant Mike Budenholzer, who was in charge for the Spurs' 106-102 victory over the Hornets.

Dallas is 18-24 and has won five of six. Dirk Nowitzki this week acknowledged SA's dominance over Dallas this seasons (losses by scores of 129-91 and 111-86) but also thinks the four days of practice is a benefit.

"Four days off in the middle of the season usually doesn't happen much, so you gotta make the best of it," Nowitzki said.

Opposing the Spurs without two face-of-the-franchise guys doesn't happen often, either. We'll see if Dallas can make the best of that, too.