THE FACTS: Dirk Nowitzki returned to the Mavericks lineup for the first time since his offseason knee surgery, but Dallas continued to struggle Sunday night against the Spurs. San Antonio connected on a franchise-best 20 3-point shots, including 7-for-8 for a career-high 25 points from Danny Green, and the Spurs beat Dallas 129-91 at AT&T Center.
Nowitzki made his first three shots and finished with eight points (3-for-4 shooting) and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
Overall, Green was 9-for-10 from the floor as San Antonio (21-8) shot 56 percent from the floor and finished 20-for-30 from the 3-point line.
Lost in the flurry over Nowitzki's return was the appearance of Elton Brand and Chris Douglas-Roberts for Dallas (12-16). Brand (1-for-4, two points in 13 1/2 minutes) had missed three games because of a right groin strain, and Douglas-Roberts (three points, all from the foul line in 9 1/2 minutes) was signed in the morning from the team's D-League affiliate (Texas Legends) to fill the spot that came open when Dallas granted Derek Fisher's request to be released.
QUOTABLE: "I practiced really hard the past couple of days, but this morning I didn't really know (about playing). I felt actually good out there. My wind was OK. My legs were a little heavy after a couple of trips up and down, but I thought I fought through it OK. It went better than I would have thought. That's encouraging for me, but as a team we've got a long way to go. We're not very good defensively, that's obvious. Offensively our decision making is horrible."
THE STAT: Beyond Green's accurate outside shooting, the Spurs outscored Dallas 60-15 from the 3-point line.
TURNING POINT: Though the Mavericks trailed by 12 at halftime, they did have some hope; Dallas shot 57 percent in the first half. But the Mavs missed 13 of their 17 attempts in the third quarter and were outscored 36-14 to fall behind 100-66 to start the fourth.
QUOTABLE II: "Everybody else on the team stepped up and knocked down some shots. It's a lot easier to shoot like that when you move the ball and get open looks."
HOT: Green's previous career high in points was 24 last season against Denver, and his previous career high for 3-pointers of seven came earlier this month at Charlotte. But it's his first multiple 3-point game since Dec. 15 against Boston, and in the three games since then heading into tonight Green was 3-for-17 from the 3-point line.
NOT: Dominique Jones got his first start at point for the Mavs and went 1-for-7.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Green had 25 points in his first double-digit scoring game since Dec. 15. He added four rebounds but no assists. Tim Duncan (15 points, five rebounds) has hit double-digit scoring in four straight games.
GOOD MOVE: The Spurs kept spreading the floor and hiking up the 3-ball. The 66.7 percent from 3-point territory was a season-best (59.3 percent was the previous mark).
BAD MOVE: The Mavs have been bothered by injuries this season (and have just granted a release to Fisher), and whether or not Nowitzki has come back too soon from knee surgery remains to be seen. He appeared to move around fine during the game, spinning well on a turnaround jumper and getting out to set screens on the perimeter. At least Rick Carlisle got Nowitzki out of the game with three minutes left in the third quarter and the Mavs down by 30.
ROOKIE WATCH: Jae Crowder had nine points and four rebounds in 16 minutes for Dallas. The Spurs' Nando De Colo had five assists but three turnovers in 13 minutes.
NOTABLE: The Mavs started their league-leading 13th different lineup tonight, a lead which surely could increase now that Nowitzki is back. ... Kawhi Leonard made his first start for San Antonio in more than a month since suffering from tendonitis in his quadriceps and had 17 points in 26 minutes. ... The Spurs had a season-best 17 steals. ... Gary Neal strained his right calf muscle and did not return for San Antonio after nine first-half minutes. ... O.J. Mayo picked up a technical for Dallas when, following a layup, he removed his mouthpiece and yelled at referee Tony Brothers in the second quarter.
UP NEXT: For the Mavericks, Thursday @ Oklahoma City, Friday vs. Denver, Sunday vs. San Antonio. For the Spurs, Wednesday vs. Toronto, Friday vs. Houston, Sunday @ Dallas.