SAN ANTONIO (AP)—For several weeks it looked as if the Western Conference playoff picture might not be sorted out until the season-ending matchup between San Antonio and Dallas.
Then the Spurs got hot, the Mavericks swooned and Wednesday’s finale became so unimportant for San Antonio that the Spurs gave Tim Duncan the night off.
Dallas, led by Dirk Nowitzki’s 25 points and 10 rebounds, won 93-72 for its first 60-win season. The victory also ensured the Mavericks, the No. 3 seed in the conference, a home-court advantage if they reach the second round of the playoffs.
“We had to play hard because we’re looking forward to the second round,” said Nowitzki, whose team may first have to get past the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. “We want home court against Sacramento.”
The Mavericks spent most of the season with the NBA’s best record only to slide down the standings during an early April stretch in which they lost four out of five games.
“We’re not disappointed, but just ready to play L.A.,” said Steve Nash, who had 10 assists.
The Spurs, who also finished the season with 60 wins, clinched the top seed in the conference on Monday at Utah.
Duncan, San Antonio’s top scorer and rebounder, and starting guard Stephen Jackson sat out the game after being placed on the injured list Wednesday. Both will be in uniform when the Spurs open their first-round series against Phoenix this weekend.
“It’s a long regular season,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’re ready for the playoffs.”
The Spurs defeated the Suns once in four tries this season.
“It concerns you going into the playoffs,” Popovich said. “They’ve given us problems.”
David Robinson, playing in his final regular-season game as a Spur, said he and his teammates have to adapt to the Suns’ small and shifting lineup, led by point guard Stephon Marbury and Rookie of the Year candidate Amare Stoudamire.
“They don’t play like a lot of other teams,” Robinson said. “With a team like that, preparation is the key.”
Leading by four at the half, Dallas quickly built its margin into double digits in the third quarter behind Nowitzki’s eight points in the period. The Spurs, who shot only 36 percent on the night, got no closer than 12 in the final period.
Shawn Bradley scored 15 points and Nick Van Exel added 14 for the Mavericks. Steve Smith, starting in place of Jackson, led San Antonio with 11 points. Tony Parker and Steve Kerr each contributed 10 points.
The Mavs built their advantage to double-digits with an 11-2 run late in the first, with three of their five baskets coming from Bradley. The Spurs had a 13-5 burst midway through the second quarter to cut the Dallas lead to 37-33.
The Mavs shot just 6-for-24 in the second period as San Antonio stayed close by making 13 of its 14 free throws in the half, which finished with Dallas ahead 45-41.
Duncan ended his streak of starting 245 consecutive regular-season games, dating to the beginning of the 2000-01 season. … Mengke Bateer, activated from the injured list, scored two points and had one rebound in 11 minutes. … San Antonio did not lose more than two straight games all season. … Dallas had a 5-4 record in April. … The win allowed Mavs coach Don Nelson to reach the 60-win mark for the second time. He led Milwaukee to a 60-22 record in 1980-81. … Nowitzki became the second Maverick to score 2,000points in a season. Mark Aguirre did it three times in the mid-’80s.