DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki grabbed a loose ball in the backcourt and started the fast break himself, pulling up for a 3-pointer just like the days before his first knee surgery.
The difference this time: The Dallas Mavericks star threw up an airball.
Nowitzki will need more time to work his way back from a surgery that cost him the first 27 games of the season. Even then, it may not be enough to keep up with the San Antonio Spurs and their Big Three.
Tony Parker had 21 points and nine assists, Manu Ginobili had several key baskets among his 20 points and the Spurs handed the Mavericks their sixth straight loss, 111-86 on Sunday night.
Two nights after his second 30-point game of the season, Tim Duncan had 10 in the second quarter before settling in for a more typical outing: 18 points and 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double to go with three blocks.
The Spurs, who snapped a four-game road losing streak, never trailed a week after beating the Mavericks by 38 in San Antonio when Nowitzki made a surprise debut earlier than expected.
"I liked the focus of the team," Parker said. "It's never easy to play a team that we beat pretty bad last week. From the get-go, we moved the ball, took good shots and played great defense."
Nowitzki followed his first-half airball by missing three more in the second half before finally getting a basket on a driving layup. He finished with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting — and didn't come close to trying another 3-pointer. He did have five rebounds and three blocked shots.
"He's not Dirk Nowitzki, basically, one of the greatest players that's ever played, so it's going to take time for him," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's very, very difficult when you have a guy like that out, and then he comes back."
Darren Collison scored 18 points to lead the Mavericks, whose losing streak is their longest since January of their championship season in 2010-11.
Dallas was within five in the third quarter when Ginobili hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and he made an even longer 3 with the shot clock inside a second to put San Antonio ahead 80-70. He finished the third quarter the same way he did the second — with a last-second shot that put the Spurs up by 12.
Ginobili scored 10 points in the third quarter and added five rebounds and five assists for the game with just one turnover.