DALLAS — Patty Mills scored 26 points starting in place of Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs moved to the brink of the top seed in the Western Conference with a 109-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
Making his second start of the season and seventh of his career with Parker nursing a bad back, Mills had 11 points and a pair of steals in the third quarter when the Spurs turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead.
The Spurs beat the Mavericks for the ninth straight time in the regular season, a streak that has lasted more than two years.
Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds after leaving briefly in the first quarter because of a hyperextended right knee. Kawhi Leonard added 16 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and five assists.
Monta Ellis led Dallas with 24 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 19.
Even with Parker back in San Antonio, the Texas rivals looked like the old playoff foes they are in an entertaining game with both teams trying to lock up their postseason plans.
The Spurs are in, and the defending conference champions are just a win or an Oklahoma City loss away from securing the top seed in the West.
The Mavericks (48-32) are in a three-team scrum with Phoenix and Memphis — their opponents in the final two games — for the final two playoff spots a year after missing the postseason for the first time since 2000.
Dallas is in a virtual tie with the Suns (47-31) and a game ahead of the Grizzlies (46-32), who have four games in the last six days of the regular season.
Parker missed his second straight game after leaving early in a win over Memphis on Sunday. The Spurs trailed by as many as 28 points and never led in a 19-point loss to Minnesota without Parker, but Mills started in place of Cory Joseph and took over against the Mavericks.
Mills had eight points on an 11-0 first-half spurt that lasted just a minute and a half and answered a 14-2 run by Dallas to put San Antonio back in front by five.
After Duncan, Leonard and Danny Green keyed a 9-2 run to start the second half, Mills scored 11 of the next 13 San Antonio points capped by a 3-pointer for a 71-60 lead midway through the third quarter.
Mills was 6 of 11 from 3-point range, and Green hit three from beyond the arc in the first 5 minutes and finished with 15 points as the San Antonio backcourt outplayed Dallas’ Ellis and Jose Calderon when the outcome was in doubt.
Ellis scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter with the San Antonio lead hovering around double digits.
The Spurs had a scary moment early when Duncan crumpled to the court holding his right knee and stayed down for a Dallas possession at the other end. When the Spurs got the game stopped with 5:58 left in the first quarter, he headed for a tunnel but emerged a few minutes later and returned to the game.