8:00 PM ET, March 14, 2013
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
SAN ANTONIO -- 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.
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The Spurs clinched a playoff spot for the 16th straight season, the longest active streak in the NBA. San Antonio also reached 50 wins for the 14th straight season, the longest streak in NBA history.
"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.
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.
Dallas responded with a 14-4 run, going 6 for 9 to open the third and pull within 58-55.
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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Around The Association
MVP: Tim Duncan played 36 minutes, one for every year he's been alive. Duncan scored 28 points, snagged 19 rebounds and dominated the floor defensively for a deathly flat Spurs team. It was just one of those nights.
Defining moment: In a game in which they never quite closed the door on a desperate team, San Antonio's moment ended up being a defensive stand -- the Spurs' defense barely gave Dallas a sliver of room on their two shots to win the game, cutting off a brilliant Dirk Nowizki and forcing a contested Vince Carter three in a one-point game.
That was unexpected: Early on, smart money said that the Spurs would shoot out to a big lead when the law of averages came to town -- San Antonio was missing open 3s and chippies while the Mavs sunk long, contested 2s. That smart money was wrong. They never stopped sinking for Dallas, and they never started hitting for the Spurs. The Spurs clinched their playoff spot, but only by the skin of their teeth.
Next 5 Games
Tim Duncan had 28 points, 19 rebounds Thursday against the Mavs. He ranks 2nd in the NBA with seven 20-point, 15-rebound games this season. Since his rookie season, Duncan leads all players in 20-15 games.[+]
The Spurs have now won 50 games in 14 straight seasons, the longest streak in NBA history.[+]
Most Consecutive 50-Win Seasons, NBA History
ESPN Stats & Information