Sweeping the Dallas Mavericks in the regular season for the first time in 15 years could have been a cause for celebration. Instead, it just raised more concerns for the San Antonio Spurs.
Tim Duncan had 28 points and 19 rebounds and San Antonio escaped with a 92-91 victory over Dallas when Vince Carter’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
”Overall I thought (the Mavericks) played better than us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”I thought they executed better than we did. They were more physical and aggressive.”
Playing their sixth straight game without injured point guard Tony Parker, San Antonio had 15 turnovers and shot 44 percent from the field. The Spurs had 31 assists, but missed three shots and had a turnover in the final 3 minutes in nearly losing an eight-point lead.
”We’re going through a section of time here where we’re not playing the greatest of basketball,” Duncan said. ”Obviously, with Tony out of here, our offense is a little limited with the guys we have in there. But outside of that, we just don’t have a rhythm right now.”
Parker is expected to miss another two weeks with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain.
Gary Neal added 16 points, including eight in the final quarter, and Kawhi Leonard had 12 for San Antonio, which maintained the Western Conference’s top record at 50-16.
It was San Antonio’s second win in four games, but the two losses to Minnesota and Portland were by a combined 54 points.
”We continued to play in mud like we have been for the last two weeks,” Popovich said. ”I’m not sure what to attribute it to, but it’s a fact. It shows on the defensive end and it shows in a pretty dead offense. We were really fortunate to win this game.”
Dirk Nowitzki had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Darren Collison added 12 points and O.J. Mayo, Mike James, Brandan Wright and Vince Carter had 10 points apiece.
The Mavericks pulled within 92-91 on a 7-0 run capped by Nowitzki’s fall-away jumper with 28.2 seconds left. After Manu Ginobili missed a jumper, Carter missed a long, fall-away 3 at the buzzer that would have won the game.
”It has been the motto for our year,” Nowitzki said. ”We are right there, we just cannot get over the hump.”
The Mavericks fell three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
The Spurs last swept the Mavericks during the regular season in 1998, Duncan’s rookie season.
Duncan was again a big reason for this year’s sweep, coming within a rebound of the 22nd 20-20 game of his career.
”It’s finally starting to come back,” Duncan said of his game. ”My shot’s still not there the way I want it to be. I feel great; I feel healthy. The pain (in the knee) is gone and I’m starting to feel like I can actually play the game.”
Dallas opened the fourth quarter on a 12-4 run to take its first lead at 78-77 on Nowitzki’s 3, but Neal hit a 3 on the ensuing possession to give San Antonio a lead it would not relinquish again.
The Spurs had five turnovers in the first quarter, enabling the Mavericks to remain within striking distance. Dallas shot 40 percent from the field (8 for 20) in the first quarter, but San Antonio managed only 36 percent (9 for 25).
The Mavericks had an 8-0 run, capped by a pair of free throws by Nowitzki that tied the game at 32.
After Dallas tied the game at 41, the Spurs went on a 13-0 run bridging the second and third quarters. Ginobili had a jumper and an assist on Danny Green’s 3 and Tiago Splitter’s three-point play.
Dallas responded with a 14-4 run, going 6 for 9 to open the third and pull within 58-55.
NOTES:Mavericks F Shawn Marion (bruised calf) missed his 10th game of the season. … Five different Spurs have led the team in scoring in the six games since Parker was injured. Before his injury March 1 against Sacramento, Parker had led the team in scoring in 34 of 59 games. … Junior middleweight world champions Saul ”Canelo” Alvarez and Austin Trout had a stare down at center court before each was presented with their own Spurs jerseys. They were in town to promote their title unification bout on April 20 at the Alamodome, the Spurs’ former home. Alvarez is the WBC champion and Trout holds the WBA belt.