DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki was the lone star from the days of a Texas playoff rivalry to play a meaningless late-season game between teams that helped define the Western Conference postseason for more than a decade.
The big German and his Dallas Mavericks just wish they had the same reason to sit that the San Antonio Spurs do. Instead, the 2011 champs will go without a playoff series victory for the sixth straight season since hoisting the franchise’s only trophy.
With Tony Parker never leaving the bench while Manu Ginobili stayed home along with Kawhi Leonard and some of the new star’s sidekicks, Bryn Forbes scored a career-high 27 points and the Spurs ran away in the second half for a 102-89 victory after the Mavericks pulled most of their key guys Friday night.
San Antonio has done more than just maintain the longest active postseason streak in pro sports, which is at 20 seasons with the Spurs locked in as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind Golden State.
After adding LaMarcus Aldridge two summers ago and Pao Gasol this season in free agency, the Spurs (61-18) have consecutive 60-win seasons for the first time in franchise history. And this is the first year without 15-time All-Star Tim Duncan, who made the playoffs in all 19 of his seasons.
“They’ve done a great job with continuity there. That’s no secret,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’ve done good work in free agency and they have a great young player in Leonard who is probably more important than any of those guys in kind of transitioning the thing forward.”
The Mavericks (32-47) will miss the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years with the first losing record in the 17 full seasons that Mark Cuban has owned them. Dallas was eliminated from contention last week.
The Spurs and Mavericks played six times in the playoffs from 2001 to 2014, with the Spurs winning four series. Dallas was a heavy underdog three years ago but still took San Antonio to seven games in the first round.
“It’s pretty much about Leonard,” Cuban said. “But at the same time, they get credit for drafting him. You can do a lot of things when you put Kawhi out there. He’s a superstar.”
The Mavericks are where the Spurs were two to three years ago with Duncan in trying to move on from the Nowitzki era.
And this season could end up being a key, with an unexpected midseason roster overhaul that turned up a pair of potential keepers in guards Seth Curry — Stephen Curry’s younger brother — and rookie Yogi Ferrell, along with a trade for young, athletic center Nerlens Noel.
“We didn’t know Kawhi was going to be Kawhi the way he is now,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “And every team that loses a superstar like Dirk is going to be looking for other people to take over. That’s just the way it has to be.”
Spurs: Outscored Dallas 52-28 after halftime after trailing by 16 points in the second quarter. … Dewayne Dedmon, the only San Antonio starter to play, had 10 points and 13 rebounds. … Danny Green was the other starter to stay home. … Latvian rookie Davis Bertans scored 19 points and was 5 of 9 from 3. … David Lee, who spent part of last season with the Mavericks, had 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Mavericks: Dwight Powell led Dallas with 12 points, and Ferrell had 11. Nowitzki and fellow starters Harrison Barnes and Noel scored eight points apiece. … Nowitzki passed Jason Kidd, his point guard on the championship team, and tied Duncan for seventh on the career list with his 1,392nd game.
PLENTY OF TIME
Forbes, a rookie who had 64 points for the season with a game high of eight coming in, went 4 of 9 from 3-point range and also had career highs in minutes (29) and assists (six). “Yeah, I expected to play a little bit more,” said Forbes, who has bounced between San Antonio and its NBA Development League team in Austin. “We really only brought eight guys and Coach Pop told me last game he was yelling at me saying `Shoot the ball, shoot the ball.'”
Spurs: Fourth game in five nights Saturday at home against the Clippers.