Dirk Nowitzki came back quicker than expected from right knee surgery with the thinking that he would improve his conditioning while playing in actual games.

"I don't think that he's 100 percent in top condition yet, but he's getting closer," Rick Carlisle said on Monday. "He's much closer than he was two weeks ago or three weeks ago.

"But this is a different kind of thing when you have the surgery in October and try to work your way back in an unorthodox way by getting your conditioning back in games."

"It's getting better from game to game," Nowitzki said. "I'm working, obviously, extra to get there.

"During one of the stretches in Utah [on Jan. 7] at the beginning of the fourth quarter I was a little tired. Then when I came back later in the fourth I actually felt fine to finish the game."