The San Antonio Spurs were going to lose eventually.
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But the Dallas Mavericks seemed to enjoy being the ones who finally ended their four-week unbeaten streak more than most.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and the Mavericks ended San Antonio’s winning streak at 12 games, beating the Spurs 103-94 on Friday night. It was just the second loss of the season for the Spurs, who had been perfect in November.
The last time the Mavs were in San Antonio was April – when their season ended in Game 6 in their first-round series to the Spurs, after Dallas entered as the heavily favored No. 2 seed in the West.
This time, Mavs guard Jason Terry left asking: What streak?
”We didn’t know what the streak was,” Terry said. ”This is what the rivalry is about. We play them three more times and probably in the playoffs again.”
Manu Ginobili had 31 points for the Spurs, 16 in the first quarter alone. But two nights after rallying from 21 points down on the road to beat Minnesota, the Spurs couldn’t stop Dallas on a 14-2 run during the final five minutes.
The Mavs scored 32 points in the fourth. Shawn Marion scored 11 of his 19 points in the quarter, including the 3-point play that put the Mavs up for good.
”The last few games we were executing great down the stretch and making shot, but today they did,” Ginobili said. ”It was pretty clear they made all the shots they needed and we didn’t.”
Tyson Chandler also had 19 points for the Mavs, and nearly all from the foul line. Chandler, a career 62 percent free-throw shooter making his debut in the Dallas-San Antonio rivalry, hit 13 of his 16 foul shots.
Yelled Terry across the Mavs’ locker room afterward: ”We know who’s shooting our technical free throws.”
George Hill scored 21 points off the bench and gave San Antonio what would be its final lead with 4:45 left after a steal and tiptoe in front of the scorer’s table before coasting in for a layup.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and his bench erupted, screaming that Hill had stepped out of bounds. Turned out Dallas had nothing to worry about.
After Hill’s basket put the Spurs ahead 88-86, San Antonio turned the ball over three times on their next four possessions.
”You can blame it on the little turkey or whatever,” Hill said. ”But it happens it’s been a good journey so far. The only thing we can do is focus on Sunday.”
At 13-2, the Spurs still have the best record in the NBA but not their longest winning streak in three seasons. Next up for San Antonio: New Orleans, the only other team to beat the Spurs this season.
Tim Duncan had 15 points for the Spurs, and Tony Parker had just nine points on 4 of 12 shooting.
The Mavs returned to San Antonio for the first time since their season ended in Game 6 of a stunning playoff elimination last season. Dallas was seen as a legitimate threat the Lakers’ supremacy in the West, but instead couldn’t get past the first round.
This one could have passed for Game 7. The fourth quarter saw five lead changes and one tie before the Mavs pulled away.
Neither of the Texas rivals retooled their rosters much since their playoff series in April. But they don’t look entirely like the same, either.
The Spurs entered Friday as the second-highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 108.0 points – their highest since the 1987-88 season, and nothing like the stifling, defense-first Spurs that have defined them since coach Gregg Popovich took over.
Nowitzki, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, was 12 of 14 from he floor and made both his 3-point attempts.
But Nowitzki was happiest about the shots he didn’t have to take.
”Offensively, there were times in the past where we would force-feed the ball to me,” he said. ”But we haven’t done that the last couple of games. We kept moving the rock.”
The Mavericks won this one without backup center Brendan Haywood, who was suspended by the team before the game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Carlisle said Haywood’s suspension was only for this game but refused to say why the 10-year veteran was disciplined.
Haywood traveled with the team to San Antonio but was not at the game. The Mavs announced the suspension about an hour before tipoff.
”Everyone is held to a high level of accountability,” Carlisle said.
Notes: The Spurs are still off to their best start through 15 games in team history. … Nowitzki has averaged 34 points in his last three games. … Spurs F Richard Jefferson scored just two points and missed all four of his field goal attempts.