Finley scored 15 points, including three key free throws in the final 23 seconds, as the Spurs held on to beat his former team 92-90 on Thursday night and remain alone atop the Western Conference.
"The first game, I had a few butterflies," said Finley, a two-time All-Star in 8½ seasons with the Mavericks before being waived in August in a cost-saving move. "It was a lot more exciting to come back and play in Dallas."
Making his first start for the Spurs with Manu Ginobili out because of a jammed right foot, Finley made his first shot and finished with one point more than Dirk Nowitzki, whose shooting woes continued. Plus, Finley made the free throws down the stretch.
Tony Parker scored a season-high 30 points and put the Spurs (12-3) ahead to stay when he drove for a layup with 35 seconds left. That was the last of 26 lead changes, seven of which came in the final 2:48.
It was also redemption for Parker's turnover just seconds earlier, before Keith Van Horn's bad pass gave the ball right back. Parker drove for his layup, and then Finley was fouled rebounding a Dallas miss and made two free throws to make it 89-86.
"Finley had a great game," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was a lot more confident with the system."
Finley badly missed his first shot against Dallas on Nov. 5, when he finished with only two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes of the Spurs' 103-84 loss.
"Starting helped me get out the jitters early and just go play," Finley said. "Getting that first shot helped. ... We just wanted to win because they are one of the better teams."
Parker added two free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 92-88, but that almost wasn't enough.
Marquis Daniels missed a shot but got the long rebound and threw a wild shot toward the basket, drawing a foul from Brent Barry to get three free throws with 6.1 seconds left. After Daniels made the first two shots, he missed the third.
Tim Duncan got the rebound in a crowd but was called for traveling while trying to secure the ball with 3.5 seconds remaining. Nowitzki's potential game-tying shot off the inbound pass was partially blocked by Bruce Bowen and time ran out.
"I had a good look at it. Give Bruce credit," Nowitzki said. "Every time I touched it, a big guy ran at me. Both teams made an effort not to let the other team's main guy beat them."
Duncan was held to 13 points but had 14 rebounds. Nowitzki was just 3-of-13 shooting and is 20-of-64 his last three games.
Daniels finished with a season-high 24 points and Jason Terry
had 18 for the Mavs, who lost consecutive games for the first time under coach Avery Johnson. The Mavericks missed a chance to match San Antonio's record by losing for the third time in four games.
"We're making progress, but it was just a tough loss," said Johnson, 26-7 since replacing Don Nelson last March.
Finley scored the last seven points of the first half for the Spurs, giving them a 45-43 lead.
Nowitzki's free throw pushed Dallas ahead 42-38 before Finley made a 12-footer with 1:55 left and hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to put the Spurs ahead. After Daniels made a free throw, Finley's 22-footer broke the tie.
San Antonio jumped ahead 10-2 -- which would be its biggest lead -- by hitting five straight shots after Duncan missed the game's opening shot.
Ginobili will have an MRI exam on his jammed right foot Friday. He got hurt in the Spurs' 90-84 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, when he scored 22 points.
Duncan, who came in averaging 21.3 points, was held under 20 points for the third time in four games. ... Johnson was named the Western Conference coach of the month for November, when the Mavericks were 10-4. He also won the award last April and is the first coach in league history to win coach of the month honors in
both of his first two months coaching. "You've got have good players," Johnson said. ... Mavs guard Josh Howard missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle.