SAN ANTONIO(AP) Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks walked off the court, savoring their first road playoff victory in three years. A pack of fans stuck around and hollered "Let's go Mavs!'' in one of the most hostile places to wear green and blue.
No one bothered them or shouted back. The stands had emptied quickly, and the San Antonio Spurs were already back in the locker room knowing they've got a lot of work to do.
In a giant Game 1 road victory for the Mavericks, who hadn't won a road playoff game or postseason series since going to the NBA finals in 2006, Josh Howard scored 25 points and Dallas stole the home-court edge in 105-97 victory Saturday night.
"To get a win? Yeah, it's good to get a win here,'' Howard said. "I wouldn't say steal.''
He's right. The Mavericks earned this one.
The sixth-seeded Mavericks, who had lost nine consecutive playoff road games, outscored the Spurs 31-23 after the teams entered the fourth quarter tied. Until then, the rematch of the Texas rivals had every bit the look of the their thrilling 2006 West semifinals meeting that remains one of the best seven-game series in recent playoff history.
For the Spurs, it was their first loss in a home playoff opener since being beaten by Denver in 2007. San Antonio went on to win the next four games, but that was a younger and healthier team than these Spurs.
"We've been here before,'' Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "But it's a big loss at home for us.''
Duncan scored 27 points, and Tony Parker had 24 for the Spurs.
Game 2 is Monday night in San Antonio.
Dallas, a weak road team for most of the season, dealt the Spurs just their fourth playoff loss on their home court since 2007. The Mavericks were 18-23 on the road this season, but perhaps the more relevant mark for them begins March 31: the day Howard returned from a sore ankle that will require surgery this offseason.
Since then, Dallas is 8-2 overall and 7-1 in the games he's played. He played just 34 seconds in the fourth quarter against the Spurs, and afterward, acknowledged the ankle was sore.
"But time to tough that out,'' Howard said.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said he labored with the decision to sit Howard.
"If we could keep him out it might be better for his ankle, and the smaller lineup was able to finish the game well,'' Carlisle said.
Did it ever, thanks to the smallest of that bunch - 6-foot Jose Barea.
Besides pestering Parker on defense as good as any Mavericks defender - Parker was 2-of-6 in the fourth - Barea scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Jason Terry scored 12 points for the Mavs, including two 3-pointers. But the NBA's leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year took a backseat in the fourth to Barea, whose floating runner with 5:31 left made it 93-83.
Parker said he though Barea at times "was flopping because he's little, but those can go both ways and it didn't go my way tonight.''
Barea said he was just doing his job.
"I just trying my hardest to bother him,'' Barea said. "Stay in front of him as much as I can. Try and stay in front of him and take a couple of charges the best I can. It worked out.''
San Antonio entered the playoffs facing big doubts about how it'd fare without Manu Ginobili, who's out for the playoffs with an injured ankle. In the fourth quarter, when the Spurs could've used his offense and energy the most, the Spurs shot 40 percent while Dallas shot nearly 58 percent.
Duncan, wearing a sleeve on his achy left knee instead of the bulky contraption he wore at practice Friday, scored five points in the fourth but couldn't help the Spurs keep pace. Duncan has never lost a first-round playoff series.
"It's tough,'' Terry said of winning in San Antonio. "This is probably the toughest place, besides Cleveland, to play in the league. It's not going to be anything different on Monday night.''
Notes: Ginobili sat behind the San Antonio bench. "We have to be of the mind-set that Manu Ginobili is almost not part of the team, in a crazy sort of way,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If we spend any time thinking about Manu, it's going to take away from our group think.'' ... San Antonio (12 years) and Dallas (nine) have the longest consecutive playoff streaks in the NBA. ... The Spurs did get one fan favorite back for the playoffs: popular public-address announcer Kevin Brock, who in December blew out his knees shooting baskets before a game.