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Mavericks edge rival Spurs, extend winning streak to eight

Nov 25, 2006 - 4:05 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Even the mighty San Antonio Spurs failed to slow down Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

Nowitzki scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks held on for a 95-92 triumph over the Spurs in a showdown of Western Conference powers.

It was the eighth consecutive victory for Dallas, which staved off a furious late charge to avenge a season-opening home loss to its in-state division rival. The Mavericks are on their longest winning streak since a 13-game run from January 14-February 9 of last season.

"It was two warrior-like teams going at it, and both teams refused to lose," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Our team showed a lot of guts in the fourth quarter. It was two heavyweights going at it, and fortunately we came out on the winning side."

Nowitzki shot 12-of-23 from the floor and made all six free throws while grabbing 10 rebounds. Jason Terry scored 14 points and dished out 10 assists for Dallas, which dropped a 97-91 decision to San Antonio on November 2.

"I think it's safe to say this is one of the best rivalries in the NBA," Nowitzki said. "Tonight there was a lot of intensity between both teams creating an almost postseason feeling. I wouldn't call tonight's game a must-win, but it is definitely a big win."

Friday's contest marked the first time the teams met in San Antonio since Game Seven of the Western Conference semifinals, a contest in which Nowitzki collected 37 points and 15 rebounds to lead Dallas to a 119-111 overtime win.

Spurs superstar forward Tim Duncan claimed Friday's contest brought back memories of that classic contest.

"We were reminded by coach Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) about Game Seven and that situation," Duncan said. "We have been putting ourselves in a hole these last couple of games. We have to find a way to get away from that."

Despite never trailing in the fourth quarter of Friday's nip-and-tuck contest, the Mavericks still relied heavily on the 7-foot Nowitzki, who often was matched up against smaller defenders down the stretch.

"(Nowitzki) was unbelievable tonight," Dallas swingman Jerry Stackhouse said. "He had a couple of opportunites to make some passes and he was like, 'No, I'm going to shoot this one.' But that's what he we need him to do. We need him to play big in big games, and that's what he did tonight."

Duncan paced the Spurs with 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting while Tony Parker scored 16 points. Fabricio Oberto, who was given the primary task of guarding Nowitzki, added 14 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which had its four-game winning streak snapped.

"I thought Fabricio did an incredible job on (Nowitzki) all night," Duncan said. "I thought in Dirk making those big shots, he was given difficult shots to make and he made them. (Oberto) stayed in front of him and made him take some 18- and 19-footers over a hand."

Behind the hot shooting of Nowitzki and Terry, the Mavericks opened a 17-point lead in the first half and entered the break with a 59-50 advantage.

"We gave up a lot of points in the first half," Popovich said. "That's what happens when you don't take care of business yourself."

But the Spurs buckled down defensively in the second half of a game which resembled one of the typical postseason tussles between these Southwest Division foes.

Dallas managed just 15 points in the third quarter while San Antonio reeled off 12 straight points to close within 74-73.

"I think every team looks at every one of our matchups as if it were the postseason," Stackhouse said. "The Spurs are a great team, and you should never count them out no matter how deep into the season you get."

The Mavericks maintained their lead thanks to a trio of jumpers from Nowitzki, but Parker scored four consecutive points to cut the deficit to 89-87 with two minutes left.

That set the stage for more late heroics from Nowitzki, who followed up Terry's 17-footer with a 21-foot jumper to push the lead back to 93-87.

Bruce Bowen hit a layup and Duncan converted 3-of-3 free throws with 12 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 93-92, but Nowitzki drilled a pair from the line on the ensuing possession to seal the victory.

"Once again, we have a bad start," Parker said. "Against a team like Dallas, who was shooting the ball very well in the first half, it's tough to come back. We need to find a way to have a better start."

San Antonio had a chance to force overtime on the final possession, but Robert Horry and Michael Finley both misses potential game-tying 3-pointers in the waning seconds. Replays showed that Finley may have been fouled, but Popovich did not bemoan the final play.

"It was a good game both ways," Popovich said. "In the second half, we played really well but they did a great job for 48 minutes. We did a great job for a half. In my mind, (the last play) did not make the difference in the game."

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