DALLAS -- Those four days off without a game didn't serve the Dallas Mavericks well Friday night
Playing too relaxed and without enough passion early, the Mavs paid for it in the end as they were upended by the San Antonio Spurs 113-107 before a sellout crowd of 19,884 at American Airlines Center.
The loss dropped the Mavs (18-25) four games behind Houston -- the Rockets beat New Orleans on Friday -- for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
On the surface, the Mavs should have had a decisive edge against San Antonio because they hadn't played since beating Orlando on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Spurs were playing without 14-time All-Star center Tim Duncan, who was nursing a sore left knee. And coach Gregg Popovich was home ill.
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But none of that mattered as the Spurs kicked into gear in the early going, then applied some major pressure when they opened the third quarter with a 24-8 run to open a 77-51 lead.
"They played at a higher level than we did," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had some stretches where I thought we were doing OK. Our shot-making early wasn't there; that was a problem, and then the run to start the third quarter was decisive. That put us in a huge hole."
It was a huge hole the Mavs were familiar with when it comes to the Spurs, who also beat them earlier this season by 38 and 25 points.
"I probably should have taken three timeouts during that period," Carlisle said. "I wanted to keep the game going because I thought we needed tempo, but they just kept pouring it on and we just couldn't overcome that."
Only a 39-point fourth quarter by the Mavs kept the score respectable. But by the time Tony Parker executed back-to-back driving layups and Gary Neal sank a 20-footer to put San Antonio ahead 107-92 with 2:45 left, the Spurs knew they were going to win.
Carlisle started Elton Brand at center in place of Chris Kaman, and Brand finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Kaman contributed eight points, three rebounds and one blocked shot.
"I decided to start Brand and we'll see where it goes from here," Carlisle said. "There's supposed to always be something -- that's how this is. We'll keep working at it, keep working to figure it out. We don't have easy answers to anything, and that's why we've got to work hard and that's why we've got to stick with it."
The Mavs made just 8 of 22 shots in falling behind 27-20 after the first quarter. Then they missed their first eight shots of the second period.
Forward Shawn Marion noted that it's possible that the Mavs were hindered by that four-day layoff.
"We never were able to take them out of things that they wanted to do," he said."
Backup point guard Rodrigue Beaubois led the Mavs with 19 points in just 16 minutes on 6-of-8 shooting. Afterward, he received some high praise from Carlisle ... sort of.
"To me it's not the points," Carlisle said. "It's the energy and the enthusiasm and the disposition."
Three-point baskets by Beaubois, Darren Collison and Jae Crowder, and a Collison steal and jumper put the Mavs within 111-107 with 2.6 seconds left. The rally was far too late.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760