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Mavs hold off Spurs down stretch for 8th straight win

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- It could very well have been a preview of
this season's Western Conference finals.

But for San Antonio, a 95-92 loss to Dallas on Friday night was
more a repeat of last season's West semifinals, when the Spurs lost
to the Mavericks at home in overtime in Game 7.

"There was a reminder from (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) about
Game 7 and that situation," said Tim Duncan, who scored 29 points.
"We put ourselves in a hole these last couple games and we have to
find a way to get away from that."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points, including 14 in the fourth
quarter, to lead the Mavericks to their eighth straight victory.
Jason Terry had 14 points and 10 assists, Josh Howard added 12
points in his return to the lineup, and Erick Dampier contributed
11.

It was the second matchup of the season between the West powers.
The Spurs beat the Mavs 97-91 in Dallas in the teams' season opener
in November.

"It was definitely a big game," Nowitzki said. "They beat us
in our home opener and we didn't want to go down 0-2 against
them."

It was the Spurs' third loss of the season. All three have been
at home.

"They did a great job for 48 minutes," Popovich said. "We did
a great job for a half."

Tony Parker had 16 points and Fabricio Oberto, who Popovich
called the Spurs' "most consistent player," had 14. Manu Ginobili
did not play in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs said that he had
a lower back contusion.

Duncan made three free throws with 12 seconds left to bring the
Spurs within one, but two from the line by Nowitzki and last-second
misses by Robert Horry and Michael Finley allowed Dallas to pull
out the victory.

Finley said he thought he "got pushed a bit" on his final
shot, but no foul was called.

"It's a tough situation for a referee," Finley said, adding,
"The game didn't come down to that last shot. There are things we
could have done earlier to take ourselves out of that situation."

Both teams went to their mainstays in the fourth, with Duncan
scoring eight straight points for the Spurs and Parker following
with six. Duncan had 11 in the period.

"Every time we see each other it has a playoff atmosphere,"
said the Mavs' Jerry Stackhouse.

The Spurs' poor shooting from the 3-point range combined with a
strong fast break performance by the Mavs helped seal the night for
Dallas.

The Spurs were 3-of-12 (25 percent) on 3-pointers, while the
Mavs were 7-of-16 (44 percent). San Antonio's Brent Barry was
1-of-4 behind the arc after entering the game 24-of-39.

Dallas had 20 fast-break points to two from the Spurs.

"We were scared in terms of their fast break," Dallas coach
Avery Johnson said. "Tony Parker and Ginobili, they are one-man
fast breaks. Once they get the ball they can go coast to coast."

Nowitzki scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping the Mavs
take a 37-23 lead. He was only 1-of-5 in the second but combined
with Terry for 22 points and seven assists in the half.

Dallas had a 9-0 advantage in fast-break points and was 6-of-11
from behind the arc to take a 59-50 halftime lead. Duncan led the
Spurs with 13 points.

"It's a bad habit," Parker said of the Spurs' pattern of
playing from behind. "You can't do that, especially against
Dallas. We have to find a way to have a better start."

The Spurs cut the deficit to three points 1:28 into the third
with a reverse dunk from Oberto, a fast-break bucket from Parker
and a layup from Duncan. But Dallas eventually pushed the lead back
to nine and was ahead 74-73 at the end of the period after
officials ruled a last-second shot by Oberto didn't beat the
buzzer.

The Spurs never led in the fourth.

Johnson got a technical in the third for arguing with an
official. Fans in the arena yelled it was "about time" since
Johnson had been involved in a vigorous back-and-forth with an
official during the first half.

Game notes
Howard had missed eight games after spraining his left
ankle Nov. 6. He played 16 minutes Friday. ... The Mavs' Devean
George -- strained right knee -- and DJ Mbenga -- strained tendon --
didn't play. ... All three of the Spurs' losses this season have
come at home. ... The Mavs started the season 0-4.