SAN ANTONIO -- Not even the surprising return of Dirk Nowitzki could prevent the Dallas Mavericks from suffering their worst loss of the season.
The San Antonio Spurs made a franchise-record 20 3-pointers en route to a 129-91 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday night before a sellout crowd of 18,581 at the AT&T Center.
It was the sixth loss in the past seven games for the Mavs, and their third in a row. Also, for the first time this season coach Rick Carlisle saw something from his club that made his stomach churn.
Asked what that was that perturbed him, Carlisle said: "A lack of competitiveness, selfishness and a lack of commitment to one another. It's something we can't accept and I've got to work harder at turning these guys into a team.
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"At this point we don't look like we're very close. But we're going to keep at it."
This was the sixth time this season the Mavs have lost a game by 20 or more points. And this one wasn't as close as the final score, particularly because the Spurs already had 100 points by the end of the third quarter, and led by as many as 46 points, 127-81, with three minutes left in the game.
"They busted our [butts] and broke a record," forward Shawn Marion said. "Ain't no use sitting here and making excuses or nothing. We took a [butt]-whipping. A plain old-fashioned [butt] whipping in every which way you can think about it."
The lopsided loss overshadowed the return of Nowitzki, who, in a surprise move, played his first game of the season since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19. Nowitzki wound up playing 20 minutes, scoring eight points, collecting six rebounds and a steal and was 3-of-4 from the field, including 1-of-1 on 3-pointers.
Nowitzki said even after Sunday morning's shootaround he didn't even know if he would be able to play. But he talked with athletic trainer Casey Smith and Carlisle about his condition, and the decision was made for him to give it a go.
"I felt actually good out there," Nowitzki said. "I thought my wind was OK, I thought my legs were heavy there after a couple of trips up and down, but I thought I got through it OK.
"At the end of the third we were down 80, so I didn't really have to go back in for another run. It's just good to get out there and get moving again and jumping and reacting."
The Spurs were 5-of-5 from 3-point range and led 29-18. Nowitzki's first basket came via a dunk off a feed from Darren Collison, drawing the Mavs within 33-26, late in the first quarter.
But the red-hot Spurs, who made 20 of 30 3-pointers, just kept hitting one 3-pointer after another. And many of them were of the wide-open variety, meaning the Mavs' rotation was poor.
"I've had a rough day at the office and it's never been like that," said Dominique Jones, who received the starting nod at point guard in the wake of Derek Fisher's departure. "It's just one of those games that you hate it, it's embarrassing to yourself, the franchise, just everybody."
The Mavs, who committed 20 turnovers, trailed 100-66 after the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Spurs collected a season-high 17 steals, got a season-high nine assists from Manu Ginobili, a career-high 25 points from Danny Green and a career-high-tying seven 3-pointers by Green.
And it all made Carlisle see red.
"It was dribble penetration, it was giving up 3's, it was not getting loose balls, it was failure to make any hard physical plays," Carlisle said of his team's lackluster performance. "So, we're going to lace them up early [this] morning and go back at it.
"I'd love to give everybody two days off, but it ain't happening. It ain't happening."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760