for this game

Ginobili sparks Spurs past Mavericks

Mar 23, 2008 - 9:21 PM DALLAS (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs savored a satisfying road win. The Dallas Mavericks were dealing with the possibility of losing their franchise player.

In a typically emotional contest between the rivals, Manu Ginobili keyed a decisive third-quarter run Sunday as the Spurs rallied for an 88-81 win over the Mavericks, who played the final 15 minutes of the game without Dirk Nowitzki.

The Spurs shot 24 percent in the first half but turned around the game with stifling defense in the second half. They erased a 12-point deficit with a 19-0 spurt late in the third quarter, taking a 61-54 lead on Ginobili's 3-pointer with 1:45 left.

"Another typical game between the Spurs and Mavs," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Great competiveness, and were fortunate that we shot a little better in the second half."

Ginobili scored 12 of his 26 points in the third quarter, including eight in the decisive spurt.

"We were were not playing good," Ginobili said. "We came out of a timeout and we just flipped the game and started playing better. Our defense was more aggressive and we were getting the rebounds."

With 3:18 left in the period, Nowitzki landed awkwardly after blocking a shot by Ime Udoka. He crumpled to the ground and grabbed his left knee while grimacing in pain.

Nowitzki, Dallas' leading scorer, tried to put weight on the leg but couldn't and had to be helped to the locker room. The Mavericks said he suffered an injury to his lower leg but did not indicate how long he would be sidelined.

"I fell awkwardly and my left leg got caught underneath me," said Nowitzki, who will be re-evaluated on Monday.

"Everybody in the damn Dallas world know that a lot that we do revolves around Dirk," Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "He needs to heal up."

Dallas still has not beaten a team with a winning record since acquiring Jason Kidd from the New Jersey Nets, falling to 0-8. The Mavericks also have dropped three in a row at home for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

In the final minute of the third quarter, Dallas began to unravel as Stackhouse and Ginobili got into an altercation underneath the basket.

Stackhouse was assessed a technical after tackling Ginobili to the ground, then was ejected after picking up a second technical with 13 seconds remaining in the contest.

Stackhouse, who paced the Mavericks with 19 points, questioned the officiating. The Spurs were 23-of-24 from the line and the Mavericks just 9-of-11.

"We've been down free-throw-wise and foul-shooting-wise all game," he said. "It's tough to have in your building. You expect it on the road but when you come home, you get to be able to get in the bonus. But somehow, it didn't happen tonight."

After Tim Duncan's layup gave the Spurs an 82-74 lead, the Mavericks closed to 82-78 on Kidd's 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining.

But after Duncan hit 1-of-2 from the line, Ginobili sealed the win with a steal. He hit five free throws in then final 13 seconds.

"Manu's a great competitor," Popovich said. "We've seen it before. He's got a great drive to win and he does it lots of different ways."

The Spurs were ice cold in the first half, making just 11 of their first 46 shots. The Mavericks could not take full advantage, however, managing only a 40-36 halftime lead.

"You don't feel good shooting the ball like that," Duncan said. "We felt fortunate but we weren't happy about that."

The Mavericks have dropped to seventh in the Western Conference and suddenly a playoff spot is no guarantee -especially if they lose Nowitzki for an extended period of time Dallas is only 2 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Denver.

"We should have been worried about the playoffs, regardless of who's in here," Stackhouse said. "We had three games this week that we some emphasis on winning and we didn't win."