In their first game after Christmas, the Dallas Mavericks found a way to get their fans out of the holiday spirit.
Fresh off losing at home to Houston on Christmas, the San Antonio Spurs waltzed into American Airlines Center on Thursday and held off the Mavs 116-107 before a boisterous sellout crowd of 20,305.
It was the fifth loss in their last eight games for the Mavs and dropped their record to 16-13 heading into a three-game road trip, which starts Saturday in Chicago. The Spurs, who lead the Southwest Division, padded their record to 23-7.
Tony Parker scored 23 points, Danny Green came off the bench to pour in 22, and ageless Tim Duncan added 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Spurs built a 15-point lead with 5:42 left and held on for dear life.
“They’re highly skilled. They’ve got a lot of guys that are great players, and they took advantage of it,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “We basically had to pitch a shutout in the last four minutes and we had a chance to do it, but we just had a couple of mistakes that short-circuited us.’’
The Mavs used a 12-0 run that almost erased a 15-point deficit and helped them get within 100-97 of the Spurs with 3:55 left. But Duncan scored six straight points and Green buried a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 109-103 lead with 1:59 left.
Dallas got back within three points — 110-107 — when Monta Ellis fed Samuel Dalembert for a basket inside with 50 seconds left. However, Manu Ginobili hit a pair of free throws with 34.2 seconds remaining, then Ellis misfired on a drive and the Mavs walked off the court with their second consecutive loss at home.
In explaining the loss, Carlisle said: “We made some mistakes in coverages. We were in zone late and I think we had five stops in a row, then we had a couple of things where we became undisciplined and they took advantage of it.
“This is one of the things when you play San Antonio you’ve got to be really precise with your offense and your defense. And we just had little slippages here and there, and they’re a team that’s been together a long time.’’
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Ellis scored 23, Vince Carter tossed in 20, DeJuan Blair finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon had 13 points and seven boards.
Blair, who played his first four seasons with the Spurs before signing a free-agent contract with the Mavs last summer, said: “They are a great team. It’s just something they do.
“They take their time, they’re patient and they played a great game.’’
Mavericks centers Brandan Wright and Dalembert missed Thursday morning’s shootaround with an illness, but Dalembert showed up and wound up with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“Sam showed up — he was sick, he was throwing up and stuff like that,’’ Carlisle said. “He heard Brandan wasn’t going to be here, so he showed up, so that was big for us.
“And I thought Blair played well, too. But this game came down to shot-making and it came down to untimely mistakes by us, and timely opportunities to take advantage of mistakes by them.’’
The Spurs ended the first quarter on a 12-2 run to assume a 27-20 lead, and that lead stayed at seven (58-51) at the half.
Overall, the Spurs’ got 49 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals from their bench. Green was the main culprit as he hit all seven of his field goal attempts and also was 5-of-5 from 3-point range.
“You have to play with a certain kind of precision and certain level of focus and concentration against them,’’ Carlisle said. “Otherwise, the slippage will kill you.
“We had just enough slippage to kill us in the timely moments.’’