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Nowitzki scores 36 points, extends Mavs' streak to 13

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks won a game
that Manu Ginobili said the Spurs needed but "just couldn't
take."

San Antonio is getting used to that feeling when Dallas comes to
town.

Nowitzki scored a season-high 36 points to lead the Mavs to
their 13th straight victory, 90-85 over the Spurs on Friday night.

The Spurs lost their third straight. It also was Dallas' third
straight victory in San Antonio, dating to Game 7 of last season's
Western Conference semifinals.

"Early we didn't play well. They got whatever they wanted, beat
us to every loose ball and they got too many offensive rebounds,"
Nowitzki said. "In the second half our effort was a lot better. We
had a bounce in our step. We kept making big plays."

Josh Howard added 18 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas.

San Antonio was led by Ginobili, who scored 25 points. Tim
Duncan had 18 points, Tony Parker contributed 15 and Fabricio
Oberto was perfect from the field, going 7-of-7 and adding 14
points.

"We needed it badly. We just couldn't take it, so we just got
to give them credit," Ginobili said. "We need to realize we need
to improve a lot."

But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was "thrilled" with his
team's effort.

"We did a great job, we just came up short," he said. "That's
all there is to it."

It was the teams' third meeting of the season and their second
in San Antonio. The Spurs beat the Mavericks 97-91 in November in
Dallas. The Mavs answered later that month, beating the Spurs 95-92
in San Antonio.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has made fun of San Antonio's
River Walk in the past, donned a shirt early in Friday's game that
read: "I went to the San Antonio River Walk and all I got was a
rash." But later on he was sporting a different one.

A Mavericks spokeswoman said Cuban removed the shirt at halftime
but she gave no reason for the change. She said he was wearing
another shirt underneath it. Cuban was unavailable after the game
for additional comment.

The Spurs blew a 12-point lead and the game was tied with 3:38
to go. It was one of five ties during the matchup. The teams were
tied again at 82 before Dallas pulled away with baskets by Howard
and Devean George.

Nowitzki's fadeaway jump shot with 40 seconds left put the
Mavericks up 88-84. Duncan made a foul shot to bring the Spurs
within three, but a 3-point miss by Bruce Bowen, followed by a pair
of made free throws from Howard, ended the evening.

The Spurs took a 29-21 lead into the second quarter and extended
it to 51-40 at halftime. Oberto scored all of his points in the
first half, including a last-second tip-in just before the second
quarter ended.

We "didn't have the best of first halves," Mavs coach Avery
Johnson said. "They had a lot more energy. We were just out of
sync."

Nowitzki, who had 18 points in the half, was left to make up for
poor shooting by his teammates. He went 7-of-9 from the field,
while the Mavericks' other four starters made just one shot apiece
during the first half.

Both teams got off to a slow start in the third, but Howard
eventually got going to help out Nowitzki. He had nine points in
the quarter.

A pair of free throws by Nowitzki soon brought the Mavericks
within a point, but a last-second basket from Michael Finley gave
the Spurs a 69-66 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes.

The Mavericks took the lead off a 3-pointer from Nowitzki with
5:29 left in the fourth. Ginobili, who was 4-of-6 behind the arc,
matched him nearly two minutes later to tie the game at 80.

Johnson said he was pleased with the win, but doubted the
victory will remain memorable.

"Our guys are resilient, tough-minded. Fortunately tonight we
scored one more point than them," he said. "But you're looking at
a championship team in the Spurs. I don't think anybody will
remember this game at the end of the season because this is still
January."

Game notes
F Robert Horry started in place of C Francisco Elson, who
missed his fifth game due to a small tear in his right rotator
cuff. ... Dallas will continue its three-game road trip Sunday in
Los Angeles against the Lakers. ... San Antonio will visit the
Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. ... The Mavs and Spurs will meet once
more in the regular season on April 15 in Dallas.