SAN ANTONIO -- With the surprise return of Dirk Nowitzki to the Dallas lineup Sunday night, the Mavericks seemed ready to re-energize their season against their longtime rival, the San Antonio Spurs.
However, it was the Spurs who got hot. San Antonio rode a franchise-record long-distance shooting performance to a 129-91 win over the Mavericks at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs made a team-record 20 of their 30 attempts from 3-point range.
Nowitzki, who had surgery on his right knee Oct. 19, was not expected to make his season debut until after Christmas, but he announced he was playing via Twitter before Sunday's game.
Dallas' all-time leading scorer and the former NBA MVP energized his teammates, but his presence was not enough to topple the Spurs.
Nowitzki came off the bench midway through the first quarter, and he scored his first basket on an uncontested dunk late in the period. He finished with eight points and a team-high six rebounds in 20 minutes.
"It was just good to get out there and get moving again, jumping and reacting. I thought I did decent, better than I thought (I would)," Nowitzki said. "That's encouraging for me, but as a team, we got a long way to go. We got work on a lot of areas. There's only one way but up."
The Spurs' 3-point party dampened his return. Nine San Antonio players hit a 3-pointer.
Danny Green hit seven of eight 3-point attempts, and he led the Spurs with a career-high 25 points.
"Luckily, it felt good tonight," said Green who finished 9-for-10 from the field. "Some nights you have it, and some nights you don't. Good thing we had it tonight. Not just myself, but everybody else on the team stepped up and knocked down some shots."
The Spurs (21-8) took control of the game in the third quarter, stretching a 12-point halftime lead to 34. Kawhi Leonard's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left in the period made it 98-64.
The Mavericks (12-16) went almost seven minutes without a field goal as part of a 22-2 San Antonio run.
Tony Parker scored 18 points, Leonard had 17, Tim Duncan 15 and Stephen Jackson 14 for the Spurs.
San Antonio dished out a season-high 33 assists and pressured the Mavericks persistently, notching a 17 steals, including five by Leonard.
Dallas had 20 turnovers that led to 25 San Antonio points.
"We don't create that many turnovers normally," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "so that's a heck of a night for us as far as steals are concerned. We were fortunate it was one of those nights when your opponents has a bad night and you have a great night and it ends up like tonight."
San Antonio led by as many as 46 points late in the fourth quarter when Patty Mills knocked down a 15-foot jumper for a 127-81 margin.
The defeat continued the Mavericks' worst start since 1999-2000.
"We showed a lack of competitiveness, selfishness and a lack of commitment to each other," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "The whole game was disappointing. It is something we can't accept, and I have to work harder at turning these guys into a team. At this point we don't look like we're very close, but we are going to keep at it."
Darren Collison led the Mavericks with 15 points. Vince Carter added 13, and Chris Kaman had 10.
Green hit five of San Antonio's nine first-half 3-pointers to give the Spurs a 64-52 halftime lead. He had 17 first-half points.
Dallas stayed in the game by shooting 57 percent from the field in the half, but it fell back by allowing too many uncontested jumpers.
NOTES: Point guard Derek Fisher asked for and received his release from the Mavericks on Saturday. The 38-year-old veteran cited a patellar tendon injury and the time he was spending away from his family. He averaged 25 minutes, 8.6 points and 3.6 assists in nine games this season. ... Leonard was inserted into the starting lineup. He returned to action Friday against the New Orleans Hornets after sitting out 16 games due to left knee tendinitis. ... All 12 players for the Spurs scored, while Rodrigue Beaubois was the lone Dallas player who didn't get on the score sheet.