Rapid Reaction: Spurs 104, Mavs 87

How it happened: A magical blend of Dirk Nowitzki, defense and depth carried the Mavs to the franchise’s first title last season. Dallas was dreadful in each of those departments Friday night at the AT&T Center.

The Spurs, playing without All-Star point guard Tony Parker, had plenty to do with that, physically dominating Dallas while playing a beautifully skilled game.

However, Nowitzki had arguably his worst performance since his horrific start of the season. He finished with 16 points, but he made only five of 21 shots from the floor. He was an embarrassing liability on the glass, grabbing only two rebounds.

Nowitzki’s night ended after he was whistled for a technical foul with 2:04 remaining, when he vented some frustration by shoving Kawhi Leonard in the back. Lamar Odom still didn’t take off his warm-ups, collecting his first DNP-CD of his extremely disappointing season.

With Dallas center Brendan Haywood sitting out his fourth consecutive game due to a sprained right knee, the Spurs punked the Mavs in the paint. San Antonio had outrageous edges of 54-34 on the boards, 21-7 in second-chance points and 50-16 in points in the paint.

The Mavs’ bench, a longtime strength, was severely outplayed for the second consecutive game. Jason Terry had 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, and the rest of the Mavs bench contributed only five points.

What it means: The Interstate 35 rivals split the season series, as the Mavs and Spurs both held serve on their home courts in the four meetings between the longtime Western Conference contenders. While the Spurs sit comfortably at second in the West standings, the Mavs are in jeopardy of dropping out of the top eight as they head to Houston for the butt end of a back-to-back. Dallas is part of a six-team pack within one game of each other fighting for the final five seeds.

Bold play of the game: Gary Neal ran off a couple of screens, caught the ball and fired over scrambling 7-foot Nowitzki. Neal didn’t call glass, but that’s the way the 3-pointer went down. The lucky bounce capped a 12-0 run at the end of the third quarter that gave the Spurs the lead for good. San Antonio stretched the spurt to 14 unanswered points by scoring the first bucket of the fourth quarter.

Stat of the night: The Mavs, kings of the comeback during their championship run, are 0-11 when trailing after three quarters on the road this season.