San Antonio Spurs

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spurs best in the West

Victory over Mavericks moves San Antonio into first; Popovich gets 500th win.

Michael Finley scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter against his former team, and the host San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks, 98-89, last night in a matchup of the top teams in the Western Conference.

With the victory, the Spurs leapfrogged over the Mavericks to the top spot in the West. The teams have identical 45-12 records, but San Antonio holds a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head play.

The win was also the 500th for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who took over the team during the 1996-97 season.

San Antonio led by four after three quarters but extended that lead by shooting 11-for-19 in the fourth.

Dallas narrowed its deficit to 94-89 with 46 seconds to play when Dirk Nowitzki was fouled behind the three-point line and made all three free throws.

The Mavericks then started intentionally fouling the Spurs, who made most of the subsequent free throws to maintain their lead.

Jason Terry and Nowitzki each had 23 for the Mavericks, who had won six straight. Josh Howard added 15.

Manu Ginobili made a runner off the opening tip, but the Mavericks scored the next eight points and their defense did a good job denying close-in shots to the Spurs.

A jumper by Keith Van Horn extended the Dallas lead to 22-11 late in the first, but the Spurs cut it to 30-29 with about four minutes left in the half when an emboldened Parker squeezed a layup past Nowitzki's outstretched arm.

The Mavericks hit the next three baskets to make it 36-31 before Parker made a floater and then a fast-break layup to pull San Antonio within a point with 1:14 remaining.

Dallas went up 46-40 early in the third on a follow by Nowitzki, but the Spurs took the lead with a 13-3 run capped by a breakaway dunk and a runner by Nazr Mohammed.

Nowitzki put the Mavericks back ahead with a three-point play and two free throws. San Antonio answered with three-pointer and two foul shots by Parker to go up 68-64 after three quarters.