SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - San Antonio's battle-hardened players settled a score by eliminating the Dallas Mavericks from the NBA playoffs in a Texas shootout on Thursday.
The Spurs gained revenge for their defeat by Dallas in last year's playoffs by winning their first-round series 4-2 following a 97-87 home win over the league's best road team.
With an aging roster and the underdog tag this time against the contending Mavericks, the Spurs defied the odds led by their floor general Manu Ginobili, who scored 26 points.
Fellow 30-something Tim Duncan had a resurgence with 17 points and 10 rebounds to help complete the upset series win.
San Antonio took one game in Dallas and all three games on its home court against a Mavericks team that compiled an NBA-best 27 road wins during the regular season.
Young guard George Hill provided critical baskets in the final quarter and finished with 21 to spark San Antonio despite going 0-for-4 during the first half.
"I told him at halftime he was being complacent, deferring too much -- being Mr. Nice Guy," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters.
"I told him 'To hell with the rest of the team. Go get your name in the paper!'"
The clinching win was set up by a fast start and 22-8 lead after the first quarter. The Spurs led by 22 in the second before Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki led his team on a run.
The hot-shooting German forward tallied 15 of his 33 in the third where Dallas pulled to within two points.
Caron Butler added 25 points but his efforts counted for nothing as the Western Conference's second seed bowed out in the first round for the third time in four years.
The Phoenix Suns advanced to a semi-final meeting against San Antonio by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 99-90.
Jason Richardson scored a team-high 28 points while Amare Stoudemire added 22 as the Suns wrapped up a 4-2 best-of-seven series win.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Alastair Himmer)