Spurs hand reeling Mavs fourth straight loss
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
Dirk Nowitzki missed his ninth straight game because of an ailing right knee and the once-mighty Mavs lost for the seventh time since the All-Star forward went out.
The Spurs (34-6) won their fifth straight and beat Dallas for a second time with Nowitzki sidelined. The injury has prevented a full-strength showdown between the NBA-best Spurs and Mavs, who have slipped seven games behind their Texas rivals in the Southwest Division.
Shawn Marion led Dallas with 14 points.
Nowitzki told ESPN during the broadcast that he hopes to return as early as Saturday at Memphis.
That can't happen soon enough for Dallas. The Mavs trailed the Spurs by only 3 1/2 games when they last met Dec. 30, three days after Nowitzki sprained his knee in a win at Oklahoma City.
That deficit has doubled since, a tailspin that was accelerated when Caron Butler sustained what was likely a season-ending injury on New Year's Day.
Even before Friday's game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mentioned how the Mavericks might have been the NBA's best team before losing their two biggest stars.
''If you're going to pick somebody, I still think the Lakers are the best team, once it's all said and done,'' Popovich said. ''Before Dirk got hurt, I thought they were real close to them.''
Tim Duncan had 16 points and 12 rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter with the Spurs comfortably ahead. So did Parker, who was 8 of 12 and had six assists.
Manu Ginobili had 11 points on an off night, going just 4 of 11 from the field.
Tyson Chandler had eight points in 16 minutes for Dallas despite skipping shootaround because he was feeling ill. Jose Barea and Dominique Jones scored 13 apiece and were the only other Mavs in double figures.
It tied the worst loss of the season for Dallas, and this one could've easily taken the top spot before the Mavs shaved down a 24-point deficit.
During an interview from the bench with ESPN, Nowitzki said his knee is feeling much better and he hopes to return before the Mavs end this four-game road swing.
That means the NBA's seventh-leading scorer could return Saturday at Memphis or Monday at Detroit. That would give Nowitzki at least one game to shake off the rust before the Mavs return home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Nowitzki sprained his knee in the second quarter of a 103-93 victory at Oklahoma City on Dec. 27. He came up limping after falling awkwardly when he was fouled.
Jason Terry scored nine points on 3-of-14 shooting for Dallas.
Notes: Terry, often a villain in the eyes of Spurs fans, body-checked Ginobili in the second quarter. It drew a technical foul and angered Popovich. ... Spurs F Matt Bonner didn't play in the second half after aggravating his sore right knee.