SAN ANTONIO, March 2 (Ticker) -- Bruce Bowen and the San Antonio Spurs showed the Dallas Mavericks some of their big-game experience.

Bowen did not miss a shot while clamping down on All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and the Spurs put their poise on display in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 98-89 victory over the Mavericks.

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In one of the most anticipated games of the season, San Antonio (45-12) caught Dallas (45-12) atop the Southwest Division. The teams have battled all season for the best record in the Western Conference, which has huge postseason implications.

"It is two heavyweights every time we step on the court," Dallas guard Jason Terry said. "Give them a lot of credit, they came out and did what they had to do."

"It was a playoff atmosphere out there tonight," Bowen said. "We were pressing some in the first half and didn't play that well. We picked up the intensity in the second half."

Tony Parker scored 23 points for the defending NBA champion Spurs, who erased an early 12-point deficit and extended their winning streak to five games. More importantly, they grabbed a 2-1 lead in the season series and host the remaining encounter April 7.

"It was a big game for us and there was definitely a playoff atmosphere out there," Parker said. "They are a good team and it is a good win for us."

It would not have been possible without Bowen, a perennial All-Defensive Team member who added some timely offense. He made 3-of-3 shots and 4-of-4 free throws for 11 points as he was one of six Spurs in double figures.

"We had more people distributing the ball in the second half and I was the beneficiary of some of those passes," Bowen said. "When we do that, somebody is going to hit the wide-open shot."

However, the 6-7 Bowen's biggest impact came on defense, where he harassed the 7-foot Nowitzki into a poor performance. Despite a huge size advantage, Nowitzki clearly was bothered by Bowen's physical play and often settled for bad shots or passes.

"Bruce is a good defender," said Nowitzki, who made just 6-of-15 shots. "He can put pressure on you knowing that he's got two 7-footers right behind him. Every time I tried to post him up, they came with a 7-footer to help on the baseline. They did a good defensive job as a team. They have a great five-man defense - one of the best there is. It is also tough to win when you only shoot 40 percent like we did tonight."

In the pivotal fourth quarter, Nowitzki did not score until sinking two free throws at the 3:46 mark and did not shoot until 2:48 remained. For a while, Bowen was outscoring Nowitzki in the final period. He answered Terry's 3-pointer with a leaner in the lane to give San Antonio an 86-79 lead with 4:24 left and added a runner to keep the margin at seven points with 3:05 to go.

"He's 7-feet, can shoot the three and can take you off the dribble," Bowen said. "He creates a lot of difficulties on the matchups, especially when he's going up against another big. A lot of bigs aren't quick enough to stay with him. I just try to make sure I get a hand up on every shot, body him a little bit, get a little physical with him at times."

Tim Duncan converted a three-point play between misses by Nowitzki and Robert Horry sealed it with a drive that made it 93-81 with 1:46 to play.

"I thought they shot the ball extremely well in the second half," Nowitzki said. "They made some big shots and they must have shot over 50 percent in the second half. We made a lot of mental mistakes in the second half and we need to get those corrected."

Duncan and former Maverick Michael Finley scored 15 points each, Horry added 12 and Nazr Mohammed 10 for the Spurs, who gave coach Gregg Popovich his 500th career win.

"For one to get that number of wins, it only takes half a brain to know why," said Popovich, whose team has won 14 of its last 16 games. "I've been blessed with a group of players that go out on the court and win games. It doesn't have too much to do with me, but I will keep the ball they gave me."

With the outcome decided, Nowitzki scored eight points in the final 94 seconds and finished with 23 and 11 rebounds. He was coming off three straight 30-point games.

Terry also scored 23 points and Josh Howard added 15 for the Mavericks, who had won six in a row and 19 of 20. Dallas made just 3-of-16 3-pointers, all in the final period.

"We are not going to hang our head," Terry said. "We're going to come out with a lot of energy (Friday vs. Dallas)."

A three-point play by Howard opened the fourth quarter and pulled the Mavericks within 68-67. Veteran reserves Finley and Horry combined for 10 points before Duncan's drop-in made it 80-72 with eight minutes left.

The Mavericks got off to a very quick start. Baskets by reserves Jerry Stackhouse and Darrell Armstrong opened the second period, giving Dallas a 26-14 lead and silencing the AT&T Center.

"We had a rough start to the game," Parker said. "In the second half, we started to play better."

Parker scored eight points in the period to help cut the halftime deficit to 38-36, then added 10 more in the third quarter. Consecutive buckets by Mohammed gave San Antonio a 53-49 lead - its first since 2-0.