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Mavericks Host Rival San Antonio Spurs

(Sports Network) - Two of the best teams and fiercest rivals in the NBA get together Thursday night in Big D, as the Mavericks play host to the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center.

The Spurs are a league-best 27-4 and have won 12 of their last 13 games, including Tuesday's decisive 97-82 triumph versus the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Alamo City. Tony Parker led the way with 23 points and DeJuan Blair was busy with 17 points and 15 rebounds, as the Spurs limited LA to 28 percent shooting in the second half.

"We played excellent team defense, and that's where we had been lacking. That was the most important part of the night for us," said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. "Tony Parker put us on his shoulders for a lot of the game, so we were able to hang in there even though Manu and Timmy didn't have their best offensive night."

Richard Jefferson added 15 points and seven rebounds, while George Hill chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds. Hill was playing in his second game after missing four straight because of a right big toe sprain.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined to score 11 points for San Antonio, which went 10-0 at home in December. Duncan has scored in single digits in three of four games since posting a double-double four consecutive times.

Dallas is dealing with an injury to All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who's listed as questionable with a sprained right knee. In Monday's win at Oklahoma City, Nowitzki departed the game just 2:50 into the second quarter. The former MVP came down awkwardly on his ankle after hitting a jumper, and he left the contest after completing the three-point play. He finished with 13 points, two shy of Gary Payton (21,813) for 24th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

"This is a weird injury, I've never had it," Nowitzki said postgame. "For a rolled ankle I probably would have walked it off and came right back out there, but this is something else. We're going to look at it and see where it is tomorrow. It's kind of day-to-day from this point."

Nowitzki did not play in Tuesday's 84-76 loss to the visiting Toronto Raptors in the opener of a brief homestand, as Jason Terry scored a game-high 18 points, Caron Butler added 15 and Shawn Marion finished with 12 points in place of Nowitzki in the starting lineup. It was Toronto's first win as the visitor in this series since December 1999.

"I think Toronto played a great game, and we were subpar," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after his team posted a season-low in points. "We got off to a sluggish start, particularly defensively."

The Mavericks, who are 13-5 at home this season and have won 17 of 19 overall, sit just 2 1/2 games behind the Spurs in the Southwest Division. San Antonio is 9-2 as the guest.

Dallas already defeated the Spurs this season by a 103-94 score at the AT&T Center back on Nov. 26. It has won four straight and six of the last nine meetings with San Antonio, losers in three straight trips to Big D.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.