Duncan leaves game after being hit in eye


DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks did exactly what they had to
do in what coach Don Nelson considered the most important game of
the season.

They limited Tim Duncan and beat surging San Antonio, winning
95-87 to snap a nine-game winning streak that had gotten the Spurs
within four games of Dallas for the Midwest Division lead and the
NBA's best record.

"It's good to break that streak,'' Mavs guard Nick Van Exel
said. "Our defensive gameplan was unbelievable. The plan was to
limit Duncan's 1-on-1 catches, always have someone in front of him
and somebody behind him.''

Duncan, with at least two defenders in his face every time he
touched the ball, was held to 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting before
leaving the game for good after being poked in the right eye.

"I'm not going to go into detail about what we did,'' Mavericks
coach Don Nelson said. "We were able to execute some things we
were never able to execute before and switch into a zone and do a
really good job in a couple of their favorite areas.

"It was a really good win for us, probably one of the best of
the season.''

San Antonio set an NBA record with eight straight road wins on
the same trip, including victories at Sacramento and the Los
Angeles Lakers, before returning home for a 101-76 victory Tuesday night against Denver.

Steve Nash had 29 points and 10 assists to lead the Mavericks.

Duncan left the game with 8:13 remaining after behind poked by
Michael Finley on a hard foul. Duncan walked unaided to the locker
room after staying down for a couple of minutes.

While Duncan's eye was swollen and remained sore after the game,
Spurs officials said there were no scratches or other damage to the
eye. He will be checked Friday.

Once play resumed without Duncan, the Spurs responded with a
16-2 run.

Tony Parker hit a 3-pointer. Malik Rose then scored eight of his
25 points in the run, including two free throws with 3:08 left to
pull the Spurs within 84-82 -- the closest they would get.

"I was really happy with our group for continuing to play. A
lot of teams would have cashed it in,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "Dallas played aggressive and went out and got a great

Dirk Nowitzki, playing on a sprained right ankle, hit a
3-pointer from the right corner with 2:53 left to end the Spurs

Even though the Mavericks have the NBA's best record (42-12),
they have struggled against some of the top teams. They've already
lost twice to Sacramento -- which eliminated them in the second
round of the playoffs last season -- and once to the Lakers.

"This was the biggest win because this game has been built up
and up,'' Nash said. "I don't think any of us think we shouldn't
beat that team.''

Nowitzki scored 22 points while playing 37 minutes, a day after
twisting his ankle in practice. Finley added 19 points for Dallas.

Rose hit eight of 15 shots, and the reserve keyed another 16-2
run in the second quarter. Parker's 13 points were the most by a
San Antonio starter.

"You have to give credit to the Mavs,'' Parker said. "We knew
we were going to lose sometime, but it's still disappointing.''

Dallas extended its halftime lead by getting the first six
points of the third quarter, with Finley, Nash and Nowitzki all
scoring to make it 52-43 after Stephen Jackson had two turnovers
and a shot blocked.

After Finley had a slam dunk off Van Exel's inbound pass, the
Mavericks led 33-24 with 10:15 left in the second quarter. But then
Rose started the first 16-2 run.

Rose scored eight straight points, starting with an 18-footer
and two free throws before following with consecutive 20-footers
after rebounding Dallas misses.

As his 20-footer went in with 7:46 left to get San Antonio
within 33-32, Rose let out a scream as he ran past the scorer's
table. Emanuel Ginobili drove right down the lane for a layup and
the first Spurs lead since the opening minutes of the game.

By the time Kevin Willis made a reverse layup with 5:13 left,
the Spurs had a 40-35 lead. They would be in front for just another
80 seconds.

Game notes
It was Nash's eighth double-double of the season, the
fourth in seven games. He had 10 points in the first quarter, when
the Mavs led 29-19. ... The Mavs placed Adrian Griffin on the
injured list because of tendinitis in his left knee. Avery Johnson
was activated after missing the last five games with a right calf
strain. Johnson didn't play. ... San Antonio is 18-4 since Jan. 1.
... The Spurs had won four straight against the Mavericks.