DIRK NOWITZKI wasn't expecting to play much during his season debut Sunday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Still, after missing the Dallas Mavericks' first 27 regular-season games, he didn't expect to take a seat on the bench after 20 minutes with the game completely out of hand.
"In the middle of the third we were down by 80, so I didn't really have to go back in," Nowitzki said, exaggerating the Mavs' largest deficit just a bit.
Danny Green scored a career-high 25 points and the Spurs spoiled Nowitzki's season debut with a 129-91 rout of the visiting Mavericks.
San Antonio's largest lead was actually 46, but the deficit seemed larger to Dallas.
"We got a [butt-kicking], that's it," Shawn Marion said. "No need to explain it . . . it was an old-fashioned [butt-kicking]."
The Spurs set a franchise record with 20 three-pointers, besting the record of 19 they set Dec. 8 in Charlotte. San Antonio also set a season high for largest margin of victory.
Tony Parker had 18 points, Kawhi Leonard added 17, Tim Duncan 15 and Stephen Jackson 14 for the Spurs.
Darren Collison scored 15 points to lead Dallas, which lost its third straight. Vince Carter added 13 points and Chris Kaman had 10.
San Antonio also had 33 assists, a season-high 17 steals and forced 20 turnovers.
"We don't create that many turnovers normally," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "So that's a heck of a night for us as far as steals are concerned. That's not going to happen very often. We were fortunate it was one of those nights when your opponent has a bad night and you have a great night and it ends up like tonight."
It came on the night Nowitzki returned following surgery on his right knee Oct. 19 after battling soreness the previous season.
He entered with 6:28 left in the first quarter to a hearty mix of cheers and boos. The former MVP quickly picked up a rebound for Dallas and finished with eight points - going 3-for-4 from the field - and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
Nowitzki decided to play less than an hour before tipoff after testing the knee last week.
"Before the game I felt decent, so I said I'm going to give it a go," Nowitzki said. "I felt actually good out there. I thought the wind was OK, but my legs were a little heavy there after a couple of trips up and down but I thought I fought through it OK."
Nowitzki's presence did little to stifle San Antonio's outside shooting. The Spurs were 20-for-30 from three-point range and shot 56 percent from the field overall.
"Luckily it felt good tonight," Green said. "Some nights you have it and some nights you don't. Good thing we had it tonight. Not just myself, but everybody else on the team."
Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw hit consecutive threes to push San Antonio's lead to 55-45 with 3:42 left in the first half.
Dallas was outscored 36-14 in the third quarter. San Antonio closed the quarter on a 31-9 run.
"We need to keep on working," Nowitzki said. "We've got a lot of areas to improve. We might not be as talented as some teams on the top, but if we're not, you have to make it up with how you play and compete and it's just not there."
At New York, Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, rallying the Knicks to a 94-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
New York trailed from the opening minutes until Anthony scored eight straight points down the stretch. He had scored just nine points on 3-for-11 shooting in the first half, but had the final 12 for the Knicks to give them a 4-2 finish on their six-game homestand.
* At Orlando, Paul Millsap scored 18 points, Gordon Hayward added 17 and the Utah Jazz survived a fourth-quarter rally to slip past the Magic, 97-93.
Orlando cut the lead to one in the waning seconds, but came up empty at the foul line attempting to tie it.
Arron Afflalo had 20 points, and Nik Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to lead Orlando, who has dropped back-to-back games since losing starting forward Glen Davis to a shoulder injury.
* At Phoenix, Blake Griffin scored 23 points, Chris Paul had 17 points and 13 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers extended a franchise record with their 13th consecutive victory, 103-77 over the Suns.
Reserve Jamal Crawford added 22 points for the Clippers, who won in Phoenix for the first time since April 17, 2007. Los Angeles' overall win streak is an NBA season best and its six straight road victories are also a franchise best.
Jared Dudley scored 19 points, Luis Scola had 11 and Markieff Morris added 10 for the Suns, who have dropped two straight after winning four in a row.
* At Sacramento, Marcus Thornton scored 22 points and Travis Outlaw added 15 in 16 minutes off the bench to help the Kings to a 108-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.