By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
SAN ANTONIO — The Dallas Mavericks have become a better team with Seth Curry in the starting lineup. And with Yogi Ferrell in the mix, the Mavericks are playing well enough to beat the NBA’s elite teams.
Exhibit A of that case was displayed on Sunday as Curry scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, both career highs, as Dallas stunned San Antonio 105-101 at the AT&T Center and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Spurs.
Curry hit the deciding layup with 17.3 seconds to play before Ferrell, who started and scored nine points after he was signed on Saturday off the roster of the D-League’s Long Island Nets, calmly sank two free throws in the waning seconds to finish off San Antonio.
“What tells the story is that we had only seven turnovers in the game and we held our own on the boards,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “A lot of guys stepped up and made huge plays. Seth Curry had a huge night — he played some point guard, he played some shooting guard — which was really important, and having Yogi here allowed him to play off the ball some, which he is great at.”
Dallas is 6-3 since Curry was inserted into the starting lineup on Jan. 12.
The Mavericks led 100-92 with 3:48 to play after the second of back-to-back, step-back jumpers from Harrison Barnes, but LaMarcus Aldridge hit two free throws and a dunk off a Danny Green assist as the Spurs crawled within four points at the 2:15 mark.
After an empty possession by Dallas, Kawhi Leonard added two free throws to cut the deficit to 100-98. Wesley Matthews hit one of two chances from the charity stripe to make it a three-point game with 50.8 to play. Leonard missed a jumper at the 32.9-second mark and Curry knifed his way through a suddenly porous San Antonio defense 15 seconds later to push the Mavericks’ lead to 103-98.
Dallas lost the first two games against San Antonio this season but the margin of victory averaged just six points.
“We were pretty confident coming in,” Curry said. “We knew if we just played 48 minutes of good basketball, we’d have a chance at the end. We just found a way to get it done. It’s been six years since we got a win here, so it sounds good.”
Barnes added 19 points for the Mavericks (17-30) while Matthews had 17 and Dirk Nowitzki totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Dallas won in San Antonio for the first time since Nov. 26, 2010.
“We had too many mental errors defensively and we did a poor job discipline-wise,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Our weak-side defense wasn’t there and they got to the rim just too easily. You’ve got to stop people and we didn’t stop them.”
Leonard scored 24 points to lead the Spurs (36-11), who lost consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 5 and 9, to the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, respectively. Aldridge and Tony Parker added 16 points apiece, David Lee hit for 14 and Manu Ginobili scored 10 points for San Antonio.
The Spurs have now lost to sub-.500 teams six times this season and just five times to opponents with winning records.
Dallas, which averages 10 made 3-pointers per game, hit 12 in the game — six in the first quarter alone — and hung with the Spurs despite shooting just 40 percent overall from the floor in the first 12 minutes of play. Ginobili hit San Antonio’s lone trey of the period, but it came with 1.9 seconds to play in the quarter and handed the Spurs a 28-27 lead.
San Antonio created some space for itself with an 8-0 surge to start the second quarter and assumed a 36-27 lead before a Nowitzki 3-pointer at the 9:22 mark ended the run. The Spurs pushed their advantage to as many as 15 points on a free throw by Aldridge with 3:02 remaining in the half before the Mavericks responded by outscoring San Antonio 8-3 in the final minutes and pulling to within 59-49 at intermission.
Parker led the Spurs with a season-high-tying 14 points at halftime while Leonard added 11 and Aldridge hit for 10. The Mavericks were paced by Curry’s 10 points, all of which came in the first quarter.
Dallas roared back in the third quarter, eventually retaking the lead at 73-72 on a jumper by Devin Harris with 4:09 to play in the period. Lee and Curry traded baskets on consecutive trips down the floor before Patty Mills’ jumper and another Ginobili 3-pointer granted San Antonio an 81-77 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Barnes’ 17-foot jumper with 7:11 to play was followed on the ensuing possession by a 3-pointer by Curry that pushed the Mavericks’ lead to seven points, at 94-87, their largest of the game.
“Today it was just mental errors and communication errors,” Ginobili said. “Our defense was pretty poor — we were always late on the switches and we were not as attentive as in previous games. We were a little flat in the third quarter. It’s exactly the same thing that happened in New Orleans (a 119-103 loss on Friday). We have to figure it out.”