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Tony Parker Helps Spurs Beat Mavericks

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DALLAS (AP) _ Tony Parker finished his postgame radio duty, then quickly headed off to the locker room. When he caught up to teammate Manu Ginobili, Parker smiled and proudly pumped his first.

No, beating the Dallas Mavericks in the season opener didn't make up for getting ousted by them in the playoffs.

But it still felt darn good.

Parker overcame a sprained ankle that nearly caused him to miss the game and scored 19 points, and Tim Duncan overcame a slow start to score 13 points including a key rebound and putback in the final minute of the San Antonio Spurs' 97-91 victory Thursday night in the season opener for both Western Conference powers.

``It's a new season, a new game,'' Parker said. ``Winning tonight doesn't make us feel any better until we play them in May or June.''

The Spurs lost a tense second-round series to Dallas in overtime of Game 7. The Mavericks went on to reach the NBA finals, leaving San Antonio plenty of time to think about what might've been. This game couldn't make up for that disappointment, but it still carried more weight than usual for the first of 82 games.

``We wanted to win really bad,'' said Ginobili, who scored 16 points. ``But it's not the same as the playoffs last season. The only thing that will make us forget is to have a great season and play them again.''

In the only other NBA game Thursday night, the Los Angeles Clippers beat Denver 99-95.

The Spurs trailed for most of the first three quarters, but never by more than 10 points. They charged ahead over a 6:13 span in which they held Dallas without a point, then protected the lead down the stretch with good defense and the same kind of errant shooting by the Mavs that doomed them in their last games that counted _ their four straight losses to Miami in the finals.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points for Dallas and Josh Howard had 20. Both hit big shots to keep the Mavericks close in the final minutes, but didn't get enough help.

Jason Terry missed a 3-pointer that would've put them ahead with about a minute to go, then Duncan answered with a follow shot off a missed dunk by new teammate Francisco Elson. San Antonio was hardly threatened again, silencing a loud crowd, then sending many fans to their cars with about 35 seconds left.

``We really lost our rhythm,'' Howard said.

While this game lacked the stakes of their second-round playoff series that wasn't decided until overtime of Game 7, it still featured more intensity than usual for an opener. Among the made-for-TV moments:

_ Howard was called for a flagrant foul on Spurs tough-guy Bruce Bowen (``A situation happened where I got to protect myself,'' Howard said), and Elson got a technical for taunting when he shrieked after a dunk (``All I did was scream!'' he protested to officials).

_ Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before the game he'd be on his best behavior, per the commissioner's orders, although he seemed heavy on sarcasm, with lines like ``going to the University of David Stern.'' While he avoided joining team huddles, he couldn't completely control himself, jumping up after a questionable foul called on Nowitzki, making a shoving gesture and saying, ``He pushed him.'' He looked up at the replay, shook his head and dropped to his seat. He later signaled double dribble on a non-call against Parker.

_ Official Jess Kersey was KO'd with a split chin before halftime when a blocked shot bounced hard off the whistle still in his mouth. He needed five stitches for the cut. He also was knocked down hard earlier in the game.

``It was a hard-fought game,'' said Duncan, who had only five points midway through the third quarter. ``Neither team can claim to have played a great game, but we toughed it out.''

Bowen scored 13 points, but made things interesting when he badly missed two free throws with 1:30 left. Elson had 12 points and six rebounds and Michael Finley added 10 points. New starting center Fabricio Oberto scored four points in 16 minutes.

Terry scored 14 points and Austin Croshere had 12 in his debut as Nowitzki's backup. Croshere got off to a great start with a 3-pointer and dunk on his first two attempts.

Dallas went 19-0 last season when Howard scored at least 20 points, but is 0-1 now _ another reminder that things are already different in 2006-07.

``We have a lot to work on,'' Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. ``We need to get it going again.''

Clippers 96, Nuggets 95

Sam Cassell scored 35 points and made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to lift Los Angeles in its home opener.

The Nuggets, playing their season opener, were without star Carmelo Anthony for most of the second half. He was ejected after drawing two technicals in a three-minute span early in the third quarter.

J.R. Smith scored 21 points and Marcus Camby had 16 points and 18 rebounds for Denver.

Cassell sank the free throws after his turnover in the backcourt six seconds earlier had led to J.R. Smith's layup that gave Nuggets a 95-94 lead. A 20-footer by Denver's Earl Boykins bounced off the rim and the Clippers rebounded as time expired.
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