SAN ANTONIO -- It could very well have been a preview of this season's Western Conference finals.
"There was a reminder from (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) about Game 7 and that situation," said Tim Duncan, who scored 29 points. "We put ourselves in a hole these last couple games and we have to find a way to get away from that."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Mavericks to their eighth straight victory. Jason Terry had 14 points and 10 assists, Josh Howard added 12 points in his return to the lineup, and Erick Dampier contributed 11.
It was the second matchup of the season between the West powers. The Spurs beat the Mavs 97-91 in Dallas in the teams' season opener in November.
"It was definitely a big game," Nowitzki said. "They beat us in our home opener and we didn't want to go down 0-2 against them."
It was the Spurs' third loss of the season. All three have been at home.
"They did a great job for 48 minutes," Popovich said. "We did a great job for a half."
Duncan made three free throws with 12 seconds left to bring the Spurs within one, but two from the line by Nowitzki and last-second misses by Robert Horry and Michael Finley allowed Dallas to pull out the victory.
Finley said he thought he "got pushed a bit" on his final shot, but no foul was called.
"It's a tough situation for a referee," Finley said, adding, "The game didn't come down to that last shot. There are things we could have done earlier to take ourselves out of that situation."
Both teams went to their mainstays in the fourth, with Duncan scoring eight straight points for the Spurs and Parker following with six. Duncan had 11 in the period.
"Every time we see each other it has a playoff atmosphere," said the Mavs' Jerry Stackhouse.
The Spurs' poor shooting from the 3-point range combined with a strong fast break performance by the Mavs helped seal the night for Dallas.
The Spurs were 3-of-12 (25 percent) on 3-pointers, while the Mavs were 7-of-16 (44 percent). San Antonio's Brent Barry was 1-of-4 behind the arc after entering the game 24-of-39.
Dallas had 20 fast-break points to two from the Spurs.
"We were scared in terms of their fast break," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Tony Parker and (Manu) Ginobili, they are one-man fast breaks. Once they get the ball they can go coast to coast."
Nowitzki scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping the Mavs take a 37-23 lead. He was only 1-of-5 in the second but combined with Terry for 22 points and seven assists in the half.
Dallas had a 9-0 advantage in fast-break points and was 6-of-11 from behind the arc to take a 59-50 halftime lead. Duncan led the Spurs with 13 points.
"It's a bad habit," Parker said of the Spurs' pattern of playing from behind. "You can't do that, especially against Dallas. We have to find a way to have a better start."
The Spurs cut the deficit to three points 1:28 into the third with a reverse dunk from Oberto, a fast-break bucket from Parker and a layup from Duncan. But Dallas eventually pushed the lead back to nine and was ahead 74-73 at the end of the period after officials ruled a last-second shot by Oberto didn't beat the buzzer.
The Spurs never led in the fourth.
Johnson got a technical in the third for arguing with an official. Fans in the arena yelled it was "about time" since Johnson had been involved in a vigorous back-and-forth with an official during the first half.
- Howard had missed eight games after spraining his left ankle Nov. 6. He played 16 minutes Friday.
- The Mavs' Devean George -- strained right knee -- and DJ Mbenga -- strained tendon -- didn't play.
- The Mavs started the season 0-4.