SAN ANTONO--The San Antonio Spurs used a team-record long-distance shooting performance to ruin the return of Dirk Nowitzki in a 129-91 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs made 20 of their 30 attempts from 3-point range.
Nowitzki, who had surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19, was not expected to return until after Christmas, but announced he was playing via Twitter before the game.
Dallas' all-time leading scorer and former NBA MVP energized his teammates, but his presence was not enough to pull a win from the San Antonio, their interstate rivals.
He came off the bench midway through the first quarter and had his first basket on an uncontested dunk with 26 seconds. He finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.
But it was San Antonio's 3-point party that dampened his return. The Spurs shot 67 percent behind the arc and nine Spurs players hit a 3-pointer.
Danny Green had eight 3-point field goals and led the Spurs with a career high 25 points.
The Spurs took control of the game in the third quarter, stretching a 12-point halftime lead to 34 when Kawhi Leonard connected on his trey with 41 seconds left, making it 98-64.
Leonard had 17 points, Tony Parker added 18, Tim Duncan 15 and Stephen Jackson 14 as San Antonio improved to 21-8.
San Antonio dished out 33 assists and pressured the Mavericks persistently, notching 17 steals for the game, including five by Leonard.
Dallas had 25 turnovers that led to 25 Spurs points.
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.
Dallas dropped to 12-16; the Mavericks are off to their worst start since 1999-2000.
They were led by Darren Collison with 15, while Vince Carter had 13 and Chris Kaman 10.
Green hit five of San Antonio's nine first-half 3-pointers to give the Spurs a 64-52 halftime lead. Green had 17 first-half points.
Dallas kept themselves in the game, shooting 57 percent from the field in the half, but 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.