It's easy to feel terrible for Caron Butler, who will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on Tuesday to repair a ruptured right patellar tendon suffered last weekend in front of his hometown friends and family in Milwaukee. But it's hard not to feel just as bad for the Dallas Mavericks.

Despite still employing the jab step, Butler (15.0 ppg) was shooting a career-best 43.1 percent from 3-point range and had helped Dallas (25-8) to the third-best record in the NBA prior to Saturday's non-contact injury. In a non-Gilbert Arenas locker room, his professional presence is always valuable.

But unless the Mavs can somehow replace Butler -- they already need every bit of luck they can conjure in a Western Conference where the Lakers and Spurs are favorites until eliminated -- they looked as destined as ever to extend their run of disappointing playoff exits that started after their meltdown in the 2006 NBA Finals.