|Spurs, Mavericks meet for final time this season|
The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks will conclude their compressed season series and look to get back on the winning track when they square off Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The Spurs are 2-1 against the Mavericks this season. Saturday's game is the fourth time the teams have played since Nov. 14 and the final time they will face each other in the regular season.
Dallas heads to the Alamo City on the heels of a 112-97 loss at Golden State on Thursday in which Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks (8-21) with 16 points and seven rebounds. Barnes had scored 25 points in each of his two previous homecomings to the arena in which he began his professional career.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points to complement Barnes' 16 for the Mavericks, who had held their previous 10 opponents to an average of 97.8 points.
Dallas led by as many as eight points in the first half and were still within 80-73 at the end of the third quarter before the defending champs took charge.
"We're right there in games," Barnes said. "It's just a matter of winning games. We can't continue to have games where it's 36 minutes, 38 minutes, 40 minutes of hard play. It's got to be 48 minutes and a win."
The Mavericks dropped to 3-4 in December after going 1-7 in October and 4-10 in November. They committed 12 turnovers, their sixth consecutive game with 12 or fewer giveaways.
Many fans thought Saturday's game might be the final one in San Antonio for Nowitzki, but the 39-year old told the Dallas Morning News before a loss to the Warriors on Thursday that he's seriously considering a return next season, which would be his 21st in the NBA.
"I'm not going to say 100 percent I'll be back, but it's looking like it," Nowitzki said. "I feel fine so far. I've played every game. I'd love to play all 82. That would be amazing at (age) 39. We'll see how the body feels. But so far, it's been fine."
The Spurs enter the game on a two-game losing streak and on a quick turnaround after falling at Houston 124-109 on Friday night. San Antonio never led in the game and trailed by as many as 28 points in the second quarter, after which it only got within 13 points twice.
The Spurs' bench outscored the starters 73-36 in the defeat, which was the first matchup of the season with the retrofitted Rockets. LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 16 points and reserve forward Joffrey Lauvergne added 14, Patty Mills hit for 13 points and Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Spurs (19-10).
It was the second game of the season for Kawhi Leonard, who missed 27 games with a quad injury; San Antonio has lost both games its played this year with its star forward, who was limited to 12 points in 17 minutes on Friday.
Leonard is on a minutes restriction, which affects San Antonio's rotation and continuity, a situation the Spurs will deal with, and do so happily, as a trade for getting back their best player.
"It's a pain in the --- for everybody," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said before Friday's game. "Rotations are screwed up. If a guy is only going to play so many minutes, do you go to him the whole time to get him going and get him back in the flow? Do you just do what you usually do? It makes it a little bit tough that way."
The Spurs and Mavericks played Tuesday in Big D, with Dallas capturing a 95-89 victory. Leonard made his season debut, recording 13 points and six rebounds in just under 16 minutes of court time. His performance marked his 109th game in a row in double figures, the longest Spurs streak since David Robinson's 157 from 1994 to 1996 and the third-longest streak in Spurs history.