Spurs Vs. Mavericks: San Antonio Cruises To 101-89 Win

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Spurs Vs. Mavericks: San Antonio Cruises To 101-89 Win

The San Antonio Spurs laughed off the weakened Dallas Mavericks 101-89 at the AT&T Center on Friday night, as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker set the tone early. Parker had 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter, as the Spurs jumped out to an eight-point lead at the first intermission. San Antonio didn't let up, leading by 15 at halftime and 24 heading into the fourth.

The Mavericks were sunk by a brutal offensive performance; Shawn Marion was the only Dallas starter who reached double-figures (14 on 6-11 shooting). The Mavericks' top three healthy guards in the rotation -- Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson -- combined to shoot 7-27 for 19 points. The absence of Dirk Nowitzki has rarely mattered more than in this game, where Dallas' offense looked just horrible.

Perhaps worse and less expected was that the bad offense led to the Mavericks essentially giving up on defense; San Antonio had 14 offensive rebounds in 45 opportunities, with DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess picking up four apiece and Duncan taking another three. Starting a massive frontcourt of Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca ought to have prevented that sort of tidy glasswork, especially where McDyess and Duncan are concerned. When Nowitzki returns -- possibly this weekend; fingers crossed -- he will replace Ajinca, and you figure if the Mavericks meet the Spurs again, the story will be similar on the boards. That's problematic.

If there is a bright spot for the Mavericks, it can be found in rookie Dominique Jones' performance. The first-round pick out of South Florida had 13 points and three assists in 14 minutes off the bench. It was DoJo's first game breaking the double-digit barrier in points, and just his fourth game with 10 or more minutes. That said, that Jones could receive just 14 minutes in such a rout with Dallas' guards playing so poorly, it speaks to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle's unshakable devotion to his veterans, which victimized Rodrigue Beaubois (and fans of Rodrigue Beaubois) last season.

The 34-6 Spurs host Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets on Sunday. The Mavericks, now 26-12, visit the Grizzlies Saturday night.

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Mavericks Vs. Spurs: Dirk Nowitzki Remains Out As West Powers Collide

The good news for the Dallas Mavericks is that despite the extended absence of Dirk Nowitzki, the team still remains the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The slog, which has also largely been without the services of Caron Butler, who suffered a season-ending injury two weeks ago, has been rough, but the Mavericks built enough of a cushion to stay ahead of challengers like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz.

If there is a concern, however, it's that the Mavericks could lose touch of the San Antonio Spurs, currently leading the No. 2 L.A. Lakers for 4.5 games and the Mavs by six games. Is that gap already too large to make up? Dallas has 45 games to catch the Spurs if the battle for home court advantage is indeed feasible; that's plenty of time, but each extension of the gap makes it that much less realistic.

As such, Friday night's match between the teams could weigh heavy on the race for home court. The Mavericks have a much easier schedule than the Spurs looking ahead, and a big win over the rival could kick start a nice return run for the gates. The problem, of course, is that Dallas is stuck in triage waiting for Nowitzki to come back.

This isn't like Dirk, to miss all these games. That's why the knee injury that has him in natty suits has cast such a pall over the team: Nowitzki has never missed this many games in a season. For the absence to come on a sprain, a malady Dirk's famous flexibility has always batted aside in hours (not weeks) -- it's completely unfortunate and, to a degree, maddening. The Mavericks had assembled a real contender for the first time since 2007. And this, an unlikely injury to an uninjurable player, happens?

The Mavericks will certainly be engaged in this particular battle in San Antonio, even without Nowitzki. But there's little question they'll set forward with a minute voice chirping from the back of their heads: This isn't fair. This isn't fair.

The Spurs and Mavericks tip off at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN.

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