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12/23/2012 11:09 PM EST
Spurs rout Mavs in Nowitzki's return from surgery
SAN ANTONIO 129, DALLAS 91

By RAUL DOMINGUEZ
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki wasn't expecting to play much
during his season debut Sunday night against the San Antonio
Spurs.



Still, after missing the Dallas Mavericks' first 27
regular-season games, he didn't expect to take a seat on the
bench after 20 minutes with the game completely out of hand.



"In the middle of the third we were down by 80, so I didn't
really have to go back in," Nowitzki said, exaggerating the
Mavs' largest deficit just a bit.



Danny Green scored a career-high 25 points and the Spurs spoiled
Nowitzki's season debut with a 129-91 rout of the Mavericks.



San Antonio's largest lead was actually 46, but the deficit
seemed larger to Dallas.



"We got a (butt-kicking), that's it," Shawn Marion said. "No
need to explain it ... it was an old-fashioned (butt-kicking)."



The Spurs set a franchise record with 20 3-pointers, besting the
record of 19 they set Dec. 8 in Charlotte. San Antonio also set
a season high for largest margin of victory.



Tony Parker had 18 points, Kawhi Leonard added 17, Tim Duncan 15
and Stephen Jackson 14 for the Spurs (21-8).



Darren Collison scored 15 points to lead Dallas (12-16), which
lost its third straight. Vince Carter added 13 points and Chris
Kaman had 10.



San Antonio also had 33 assists, a season-high 17 steals and
forced 20 turnovers.



"We don't create that many turnovers normally," Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "So that's a heck of a night for us as far
as steals are concerned. That's not going to happen very often.
We were fortunate it was one of those nights when your opponent
has a bad night and you have a great night and it ends up like
tonight."



It came on the night Nowitzki returned following surgery on his
right knee Oct. 19 after battling soreness the previous season.



He entered with 6:28 left in the first quarter to a hearty mix
of cheers and boos. The former MVP quickly picked up a rebound
for Dallas and finished with eight points - going 3 for 4 from
the field - and six rebounds in 20 minutes.



Nowitzki decided to play less than an hour before tipoff after
testing the knee during practice last week.



"Before the game I felt decent, so I said I'm going to give it a
go," Nowitzki said. "I felt actually good out there. I thought
the wind was OK, but my legs were a little heavy there after a
couple of trips up and down but I thought I fought through it
OK."



Nowitzki's presence did little to stifle San Antonio's outside
shooting. The Spurs were 20 from 30 from 3-point range and shot
56 percent from the field overall.



"Luckily it felt good tonight," Green said. "Some nights you
have it and some nights you don't. Good thing we had it tonight.
Not just myself, but everybody else on the team.



Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw hit consecutive 3s to push San
Antonio's lead to 55-45 with 3:42 left in the first half.



Green's seventh 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 77-57 lead with 7
minutes left in the third quarter.



The Spurs led by as many as 46, while the Mavs' lone lead came
at 4-3 on Kaman's jumper with 10:30 left in the first quarter.



Tiago Splitter's dunk gave San Antonio a 100-66 lead at the
close of the third. Splitter ran to the sideline after the dunk
with a huge a smile, where he was immediately greeted with a low
five by an equally happy Duncan.



Dallas was outscored 36-14 in the third quarter. San Antonio
closed the quarter on a 31-9 run.



"We need to keep on working," Nowitzki said. "We've got a lot of
areas to improve. We might not be as talented as some teams on
the top, but if we're not, you have to make it up with how you
play and compete and it's just not there."



Every active Spurs player scored and played at least eight
minutes.



NOTES: Spurs G Gary Neal left the game early in the fourth
quarter with a strained right calf. His status is unknown.
...San Antonio has dominated Dallas at home, holding a 51-26
advantage against their intrastate rivals. ... Seven players
have led the Spurs in individual scoring this season. ... San
Antonio has had 12 players start this season, the most in the
NBA. ... The Spurs lead the league in assists at 25.4 per game
and the team's bench leads all reserves at 11.3. ... Mavericks
coach Rick Carlisle let official Karl Lane know he was not happy
with the officiating. "Does counting fouls lose you the game?
It's so lopsided, it's ridiculous." The fouls were 8-4 in favor
of the Spurs at that point. The Spurs closed the game with 22
fouls compared to 18 for the Mavericks.

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