DALLAS (AP)—The Dallas Mavericks found out they could win without playing their best, even against the defending champions.
Despite shooting just 37 percent and barely holding on after building a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 95-92 Thursday night.
“For us to win an ugly game like that is important,” said Steve Nash, who made three straight free throws in the 16 seconds after the Spurs got within a basket. “That’s a good sign to show we’re capable of beating a good team.”
The Mavericks never trailed after Michael Finley scored six of his 17 points during a game-turning run in the third quarter. Still, they had to sweat it out at the end with their worst shooting game (31 of 84) in a win this season.
San Antonio used an 11-2 spurt to get to 88-82 on Manu Ginobili’s 3-pointer with 2:46 left. By time Tim Duncan drove down the lane virtually untouched for a dunk, it was 92-90 with 18 seconds left.
But Nash hit his free throws and the Spurs, playing their first game in Dallas since clinching the Western Conference finals with an incredible Game 6 comeback here last May, couldn’t get closer. Tony Parker and Duncan missed 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds.
“Although they came back, we had enough to protect our lead,” said Mavericks coach Don Nelson. “Let’s not forget that they are the champs and they had a full roster. It was an awful good win for us.”
When the Mavericks won 81-78 at San Antonio two weeks ago, the Spurs played without Duncan and Parker.
Duncan had 30 points and 17 rebounds, but Parker struggled for nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. Rasho Nesterovic had 18 points.
“It was frustrating at times,” Duncan said. “But I thought we learned something. We played hard. We got down a bunch of points and found a way to fight back into it.”
Finley’s 14-foot jumper less than two minutes into the second half put the Mavericks ahead 50-49. It also ignited the 12-2 spurt that put Dallas in the lead to stay.
Even though Finley made just 5 of 17 shots, he was the difference in the third quarter. He added a jumper and after his ally-oop dunk from Shawn Bradley, the Mavs led 60-51.
Finley also made both of his free throws after Anthony Carter was called for a flagrant foul for grabbing Finley’s jersey on a break after a steal. Finley was upset, and had to be separated from Carter before hitting the free throws.
Nash, coming off his first career triple-double, didn’t get into double-figure scoring until his free throws. He had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
It was the Spurs’ first game in Dallas since that 90-78 win in Game 6 of the Western finals. They scored 23 straight points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers by Steve Kerr, who has since retired and was broadcasting Thursday night’s game on television.
“The 2-0 against them is OK in the regular season, but I’d rather be 2-0 up in the playoffs,” Finley said. “But to know we can beat that team, that’s a good mental advantage to have.”
Dallas got within 47-46 after Nowitzki’s 3-pointer off the break just before halftime.
Duncan’s layup early in the second quarter gave the Spurs a 29-21 lead, their largest. Dallas then scored seven straight points, but didn’t go backahead until the third quarter.
Dallas didn’t have any turnovers in the third quarter, when the Mavs outscored San Antonio 27-17. … Mavs G Tony Delk, who missed his fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring, is expected to play Saturday against Denver. … Bradley hadn’t been expected to play because of a sprained left knee. He started and had five points and three rebounds in the game’sfirst 10 minutes.