Jefferson leads short-handed Spurs past Mavs
SAN ANTONIO -- There were days not long ago when Dirk Nowitzki traveled south and must have swore he was wearing a silver-and-black jersey with 12 on it.
One of these days, Bruce Bowen's No. 12 Spurs jersey will be hanging from the rafters of the AT&T Center after five seasons as an NBA All-Defensive first-team player, which included a body of work generally pestering Nowitzki.
Bowen's retired, but the bothered look on Nowitzki's face on Wednesday night didn't reflect it. Nowitzki missed 18 of the 27 shots he took, and the San Antonio Spurs answered those missed shots with the long arcs of 3-pointers in a 92-83 victory over Dallas.
It's the second straight game the Spurs (4-3) have played while Tim Duncan and Tony Parker sit with injured ankles. Still, Dallas (5-3) could not take advantage.
"I tried to press it in the second half. I felt like we didn't have much going," Nowitzki said. "The whole team was cold, and I probably took a coupled of shots I shouldn't have taken."
The Mavericks shot 35 percent from the floor. Josh Howard, in his third game back following offseason ankle surgery, was only 2-for-11 in 19 minutes before limping off the court and not returning. It was his first back-to-back since his return.
"I didn't know how it was going to respond, and this is how it turned out," Howard said. "It's an unexpected speed bump."
Erick Dampier, a night after pulling down a season-high 20 rebounds and scoring 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting, was 0-for-2 and scored a point with four rebounds and three fouls.
The Spurs didn't have the same problem. San Antonio took 34 3-pointers and hit 14 of them for 41 percent. It was their four straight 3-pointers midway through the second quarter that erased the Mavs' one-point lead and led to San Antonio's 13-point advantage at halftime.
While Nowitzki struggled through 41 minutes to get his 29 points, Richard Jefferson had his best night with San Antonio. He went 11-for-23 in almost 41 minutes and had 29.
"We used a lot of different guys [guarding Nowitzki]," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "but I thought Antonio [McDyess] did as good a job as you can do on a Hall of Fame player. And I think Richard [Jefferson] has been aggressive since the start of the season. I think Richard is fine."
But the Spurs who inflicted damage were 3-point shooters Keith Bogans and Matt Bonner. Bogans started and had 13 points, including 3-for-6 from 3-point land. Bonner was 3-for-5 from long range and added 11 points.
Entering the fourth quarter shooting 6-for-20, Nowitzki tried to lead a comeback along the lines of what the Mavericks pulled the night before. Dallas beat Houston by 18 after trailing by 17.
The Mavs trailed 79-64 entering the fourth quarter. They did come back, but after cutting it to four, Nowitzki missed a jumper and watched Bonner knock down one of his 3-pointers.
"I think that was really the game-winner right there," Nowitzki said.
George Hill, who started his second game at point guard in place of Parker, then stole Jason Kidd and Jefferson followed with a layup that gave San Antonio a nine-point lead with 2 ½ minutes left.
"We've just got to stop putting ourselves in the hole like that all the time," Nowitzki said. "We've been playing from behind almost every game. At some point, especially on a back-to-back, it takes a lot of energy out of ourselves to battle back."
When Nowitzki hit his first basket to tie it 16-16 with 2 ½ minutes left in the first quarter, the Spurs weren't shooting much better. They had blown a 16-8 lead by finishing the quarter going 2-for-12.
That's when the roads forked. Howard and Nowitzki sputtered through the opening 14 ½ minutes shooting a combined 3-for-17. Throw in Jason Terry and it was 4-for-21.
Dallas led 30-29 with 6:23 to go in the first half, but the Spurs immediately hit four straight 3-pointers on as many trips down the floor. They closed out the first half on a 22-8 run that saw another 3-pointer from Manu Ginobili as the clock expired and more misses from Nowitzki, including a baseline drive where he shook clear from Jefferson yet was greeted by a clean block from the rookie DeJuan Blair.
Ginobili, effectively shut down when Quentin Ross and Drew Gooden swap on the defensive assignment and sometimes combined for a double team, broke it open in the second quarter. Scoreless on two shots in seven first-quarter minutes, Ginobili went 3-for-3 -- all 3-pointers -- for nine points during six minutes in the second quarter.
Copyright 2009 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.