SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- For several weeks it looked as if the Western
Conference playoff picture might not be sorted out until the
season-ending matchup between San Antonio and Dallas.
Then the Spurs got hot, the Mavericks swooned and Wednesday's
finale became so unimportant for San Antonio that the Spurs gave
Tim Duncan the night off.
Dallas, led by Dirk Nowitzki's 25 points and 10 rebounds, won
93-72 for its first 60-win season. The victory also ensured the
Mavericks, the No. 3 seed in the conference, a home-court advantage
if they reach the second round of the playoffs.
"We had to play hard because we're looking forward to the
second round,'' said Nowitzki, whose team may first have to get
past the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. "We want home
court against Sacramento.''
The Mavericks spent most of the season with the NBA's best
record only to slide down the standings during an early April
stretch in which they lost four out of five games.
"We're not disappointed, but just ready to play L.A.,'' said
Steve Nash, who had 10 assists.
The Spurs, who also finished the season with 60 wins, clinched
the top seed in the conference on Monday at Utah.
Duncan, San Antonio's top scorer and rebounder, and starting
guard Stephen Jackson sat out the game after being placed on the
injured list Wednesday. Both will be in uniform when the Spurs open
their first-round series against Phoenix this weekend.
"It's a long regular season,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich
said. "We're ready for the playoffs.''
The Spurs defeated the Suns once in four tries this season.
"It concerns you going into the playoffs,'' Popovich said.
"They've given us problems.''
David Robinson, playing in his final regular-season game as a
Spur, said he and his teammates have to adapt to the Suns' small
and shifting lineup, led by point guard Stephon Marbury and Rookie of the Year candidate Amare Stoudamire.
"They don't play like a lot of other teams,'' Robinson said.
"With a team like that, preparation is the key.''
Leading by four at the half, Dallas quickly built its margin
into double digits in the third quarter behind Nowitzki's eight
points in the period. The Spurs, who shot only 36 percent on the
night, got no closer than 12 in the final period.
Shawn Bradley scored 15 points and Nick Van Exel added 14 for
the Mavericks. Steve Smith, starting in place of Jackson, led San
Antonio with 11 points. Tony Parker and Steve Kerr each contributed
The Mavs built their advantage to double-digits with an 11-2 run
late in the first, with three of their five baskets coming from
Bradley. The Spurs had a 13-5 burst midway through the second
quarter to cut the Dallas lead to 37-33.
The Mavs shot just 6-for-24 in the second period as San Antonio
stayed close by making 13 of its 14 free throws in the half, which
finished with Dallas ahead 45-41.
Duncan ended his streak of starting 245 consecutive
regular-season games, dating to the beginning of the 2000-01
season. ... Mengke Bateer, activated from the injured list, scored
two points and had one rebound in 11 minutes. ... San Antonio did
not lose more than two straight games all season. ... Dallas had a
5-4 record in April. ... The win allowed Mavs coach Don Nelson to
reach the 60-win mark for the second time. He led Milwaukee to a
60-22 record in 1980-81. ... Nowitzki became the second Maverick to
score 2,000 points in a season. Mark Aguirre did it three times in