SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki sat in a chair courtside, reflecting on the Dallas Mavericks first playoff road win in three years.
For a once "terrible" road team, in the words of Nowitzki, they looked perfectly relaxed in San Antonio, a day after beating the Spurs in the series opener.
"The advantage we just gained, we don't want to give it right back," Nowitzki said. "We've seen it happen before."
Not since the 2006 NBA finals had the Mavs led in a playoff series. But they've now got a 1-0 edge after going to Josh Howard early, relying on their bench late and wearing down rival San Antonio in a 105-97 victory on Saturday night.
About the only thing wrong for San Antonio on Sunday was that Jason Kidd didn't practice because of a stomach illness.
He expects to be fine for Game 2 on Monday night.
Dallas hadn't won a road playoff game in nine tries, but the Mavs don't seem to mind San Antonio: dating back to their memorable seven-game West semifinals series in 2006, Dallas has left the AT&T Center as winners in three of their last four playoff trips here.
The Game 1 victory was in large thanks to Howard, who scored 25 points and continues playing through an ailing ankle that will be surgically repaired once his season ends. Howard acknowledged the ankle was sore after the game. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle tried keeping giving him as much rest as possibly by sitting Howard for virtually all the fourth quarter.
Now comes the far more difficult part: whether the Mavericks can become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 to win consecutive playoff games in San Antonio.
"We very much understand the situation," Carlisle said. "The sense of urgency for the Spurs is going to be very high."
The Mavericks were 18-23 on the road this season, including winning just two of their last eight away from Dallas before the playoffs.
San Antonio, on the other hand, doesn't lose at home often come the playoffs: the Game 1 loss to Dallas was just the fourth in 20 home playoff games for the Spurs since winning their last NBA championship in 2007.
San Antonio contained the Mavs' stars as Nowitzki finished with 19 and Jason Terry had 12.
Instead, backup guard Jose Barea pestered Tony Parker on defense and scored seven points in the fourth quarter. Brandon Bass hit a cluster of jumpers when Nowitzki went to the bench in the second quarter with foul trouble, stopping the Spurs from extending their lead. Erick Dampier, meanwhile, cleaned up the boards.
In all, the Mavs' bench outscored the Spurs 39-14. San Antonio stuck to their plan to contain Terry and Nowitzki but that, in turn, only opened things up for Barea and others.
"The small lineup, big lineup wasn't the problem," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Sunday. "The boards were the problem, and Barea in the middle and Josh had a great game. And those things negated the pretty good job we did on Terry and Nowitzki. Overall, they played better."
Nowitzki, who called he and Terry "great decoys" in Game 1, expected the Spurs to adjust by Monday night. Quite a bit.
"You just can't watch Barea walk down the lane five or six times in the fourth quarter," he said.
Parker tormented the Mavericks in the regular season but wasn't his usual self in the fourth. And that's when San Antonio has especially relied on him this season, with Tim Duncan sometimes "playing on one leg" (in the words of Parker) because of his ailing knees and Manu Ginobili out for the playoffs with a stress fracture in his ankle.
While having the best season of his career, Parker averaged more than 31 points and seven assists in four games against Dallas before the playoffs. Parker had 24 points in Game 1 but made just two field goals in the second half, when the Mavs started the half with Barea guarding him.
Nowitzki said Barea wasn't so much the difference as Dallas just keeping fresh bodies on Parker — from Barea to Antoine Wright to Terry.
Parker shrugged off the struggles, and the loss.
"I don't know what's going on with those Game 1s but every time they're not starting well," Parker said. "There's no panic, just like if we won the game, you stay at the same level mentally. Now we're just going to go back and watch some film and come back stronger on Monday."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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