DIRK NOWITZKI grabbed a loose ball in the backcourt and started the fast break himself, pulling up for a three-pointer just like the days before his first knee surgery. The difference this time: The Dallas Mavericks star threw up an airball.
Nowitzki will need more time to work his way back from a surgery that cost him the first 27 games of the season. Even then, it may not be enough to keep up with the San Antonio Spurs and their Big Three.
Tony Parker had 21 points and nine assists, Manu Ginobili had several key baskets among his 20 points and the Spurs handed the Mavericks their sixth straight loss, 111-86, on Sunday night.
The visiting Spurs, who snapped a four-game road losing streak, never trailed a week after beating the Mavericks by 38 in San Antonio when Nowitzki made a surprise debut.
"I liked the focus of the team," Parker said. "It's never easy to play a team that we beat pretty bad last week. From the get-go, we moved the ball, took good shots and played great defense."
Nowitzki followed his first-half airball by missing three more in the second half before finally getting a basket on a driving layup. He finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting - and didn't come close to trying another three-pointer. He did have five rebounds and three blocked shots.
"He's not Dirk Nowitzki, basically, one of the greatest players that's ever played, so it's going to take time for him," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
In other games:
* At Auburn Hills, Mich., Tayshaun Prince (20 points) made two free throws with 10.9 seconds left to give Detroit a 96-94 victory over Milwaukee after the Pistons blew a 14-point lead. Monta Ellis had 30 points and nine assists for the Bucks.
* At Sacramento, Isaiah Thomas scored 27 points and made one of the Kings' two four-point plays in the second half on the way to a 118-96 win over the Boston Celtics, their third straight lopsided loss on a California road swing.
* At Los Angeles, Caron Butler poured in 29 points and Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul added 19 apiece as the Clippers won their 17th in a row, 107-96, over the Utah Jazz.
Rockets first-round pick Royce White refused his assignment to Houston's D-League affiliate, yet another setback to his return to the court. White, the 16th overall pick in the June draft, has spent most of the season on Houston's inactive list while he and the team figure out how to handle his anxiety disorder and overall mental health.
White's assignment to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Saturday looked to be a positive step in his return. But on Sunday, White released a statement in which he said he wouldn't report to the team. "I have chosen to not play, because the doctors and I believe it to be unsafe for unqualified Rockets front office personnel to make medical decisions, as they are not mental health professionals," his statement said.