Mavericks-Spurs Preview

The Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs couldn't keep up with the Dallas Mavericks last week despite a double-double from Tony Parker.

They could be in for a rough road ahead with their four-time All-Star point guard possibly out of commission.

Parker is uncertain to be available as the Spurs open a brutal slate of games Friday night against a visiting Mavericks team seeking a third straight win in the series.

San Antonio (30-14) has won four of five, its only loss in that stretch coming by a 106-99 score at Dallas on Saturday. Parker had 13 points and 11 assists but was trumped by Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 27 while Jason Kidd recorded 14 points and 10 assists.

"It was a playoff battle. Anytime we see the Spurs it's a fun game, great atmosphere, both teams really trying to get the win. As expected, it was a physical game," Nowitzki said.

The Spurs bounced back from that defeat with a 116-100 win over Minnesota on Wednesday, but it may have come at a cost. Parker, averaging team highs of 19.6 points and 8.0 assists, exited with a strained left hamstring in the second quarter and didn't return.

While the injury was apparently mild, his teammates were concerned.

"It is very bad. Everybody knows how important Tony Parker has been for us right now," said swingman Manu Ginobili, who's appeared in just 16 games due to injury. "It is going to be difficult. We need to figure it out. Great teams figure it out. Whether you are missing a player or not you have to find a way."

The Spurs have gone 1-5 in their last six games without Parker, losing both such contests this season. His possible absence also comes at a less-than-opportune time given San Antonio's upcoming schedule.

The Spurs open a back-to-back-to-back stretch Friday and play five games in six days. Gary Neal, who scored 16 points versus the Timberwolves, is expected to start if Parker can't go. Ginobili would also spend time at the point.

"Gary did a great job (at point guard) for a 2-guard," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's not a 1, but he kind of likes it for some strange reason. So we're happy he can do what he does at that position. Manu does a little bit, so the two of them share it."

The Mavericks (27-21) saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with a 109-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Nowitzki had 26 points and 10 rebounds while Jason Terry scored 23, but Shawn Marion's absence seemed to be felt as he missed his third straight game with a sore left knee.

"We can't bellyache about guys being out with injuries," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's one of the realities of the season. I'm not into that."

Dallas was outrebounded 46-29 and allowed the Lakers to shoot 58.4 percent from the floor.

"Our defense wasn't good enough," forward Lamar Odom told the league's official website. "We gave up way too many wide-open shots and they had five or six guys who were really into it offensively. We have to do a better job."

The Mavericks had dropped seven straight on the road before winning 112-95 at Denver on Monday. Dallas has lost six of nine at the AT&T Center, including back-to-back defeats by an average of 17.0 points.

While the Mavericks are hoping to have Marion available, center Brendan Haywood (knee) is expected to miss his fourth consecutive contest.

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