SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs moved on, and Dallas is done early again.
Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and San Antonio survived blowing a 22-point lead to beat the Mavericks 97-87 in Game 6 on Thursday night, handing Dirk Nowitzki and second-seeded Dallas another first-round exit.
The Spurs got payback after the Mavs eliminated them a year ago, and will play either Phoenix or Portland in the Western Conference semifinals.
"For us there was no tomorrow," Ginobili said after the Spurs finished off the Mavs in front of a raucous home crowd and avoided going back to Dallas for a Game 7.
Nowitzki nearly carried the Mavs to an unbelievable comeback, getting 25 of his 33 points in a remarkable second half. But the Mavs still stumbled to their third first-round exit in the last four years.
George Hill had 21 points for the Spurs, who are coming off their worst regular season in the Tim Duncan era - making this series all the more impressive.
It will technically go down as an upset. San Antonio is only the fifth No. 7 seed to win a first-round series, and the first since the opening round became a best-of-7 in 2003. It hadn't been done since New York beat Miami in 1998.
But with a healthy Big Three and a championship pedigree, the Spurs could hardly be called underdogs. And with no clear favorite in the West, they might be as good a finals pick as any.
As for the Mavs, it was yet another early playoff disappointment.
It comes three years after the Mavs came into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, only to be knocked out by No. 8 Golden State. The Mavs were the NBA's best road team in the regular season, but went 0-3 in San Antonio and couldn't pull themselves out of a 3-1 deficit.
This one is especially tough for team owner Mark Cuban, who plunked down an extra $30 million for a deal at the trade deadline that brought Caron Butler from Washington.
Butler scored 25 points and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois had 16 points. But aside from them and Nowitzki, no other Dallas player scored more than six points.
Now comes an interesting offseason for a team that's won 50 games for 10 straight seasons, but has only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it.
Will coach Rick Carlisle return? What about Nowitzki? Dallas isn't likely to get rid of either. Nowitzki also could choose to become a free agent, although he's steadily said he won't. There's no telling how this early exit will change Cuban's approach toward a bumper crop of free agents.
In the meantime, the Mavs will have a long time to sulk over this one.
Plagued by slow starts in this series, Dallas got off to its worst yet when it mattered most. The Mavs trailed 22-8 after the first quarter, hitting just four of their first 18 shots. By halftime it was 47-34, a franchise playoff low for Dallas.
But the Mavs clawed back.
Nowitzki, who had four fouls in the first half, shrugged off the foul trouble and put Dallas ahead 57-56 with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Cuban jumped out of his chair behind the Mavs bench, while the Spurs watched their big lead evaporate in disbelief.
But Hill, the hero of Game 4 for the Spurs, came through again to finish off Dallas. He scored 10 points in the fourth, none bigger than a corner 3-pointer with 3:19 left that put the Spurs up 89-81 and deflated Dallas.
The Spurs wanted to play the Mavericks so badly that they basically forced the matchup. By benching Duncan and Ginobili in the season finale against Dallas, they made it easier for the Mavs to win and seal them as the second and seventh seeds.
It looked like a case of being careful what you wish for when Dallas won the opener by 12 points. But San Antonio evened the series with a road win in Game 2, then swept two home games.
When the arena cleared out after winning a third home game, Spurs owner Peter Holt - who's much quieter than his Dallas counterpart - had his own words while walking across the court.
"Go Spurs Go!" he roared.
NOTES: Spurs rookie F DeJuan Blair ran his car off the interstate on the way to the game when he hit a guard rail, swerving into a ditch and deploying the air bag. He wasn't injured, and a Spurs staffer picked him up and took him to the arena. "It's questionable for the next game," Blair joked about his car. ... The dismal first quarter for the Mavs was just one point better than their franchise playoff low.