DALLAS -- The Mavericks' two-game winning streak against the Spurs ended at the American Airlines Center Monday night despite an unusually quick start. Dallas lost 93-89 and San Antonio evened the series at 2-2.
The game will be remembered for a comeback by Dallas that fell short.
Dallas led by 10 twice early in the first quarter, but were outscored 32-13 in the second quarter when the Spurs took control.
"I was so disappointed by our no-show in the first half that it's hard for me to mitigate it," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm glad we showed that we were willing and able to fight in the second half, but the way we performed competitively in the first half was inexcusable."
"At the beginning of the game, we had great energy," Mavericks guard Monta Ellis said. "When you're playing against a great team like that, you've got to use a lot of energy to come back."
Dallas was down by 20 points early in the third quarter and slowly erased that deficit to take the lead 81-80 with 4:49 left in the game.
"They did the same thing in the third quarter," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's what happens in NBA games; lots of times there are runs, and when those runs happen it’s a variety of things."
"Defensively the last two games, we've been poor, we've been poor," Carlisle said. "Our first half performance from a competitive standpoint was just not up to snuff."
"It was a tough offensive night, but it’s not like they were amazing either," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said.
Nowitzki finished the night with 19 points, again considered an off night for the future Hall of Famer. "I think they're forcing me to play off the dribble," he said. "I'm not the greatest driver anymore, so they're just taking my air space away, and that's what the good teams have done the last couple of years.
"Hey, let's stop talking about missed shots," Carlisle said. "Let's talk about guys getting up and getting into people the way we did in the second half."
"We were missing shots in the first half because we weren't defending. This is a long series. The shot-making is going to even out... trust me when I say that," the Dallas coach added.
Dallas was leading 83-82 with 3:08 left in the game when DeJuan Blair was ejected for kicking Tiago Splitter after a foul on the floor.
"It was an accident," Blair said when asked if thought he might be suspended. "We'll see what happens."
Blair said he was surprised by the ejection: "Yeah, it wasn't intentional," Blair said. "I was just reacting to a call that I think didn't go my way."
"Blair gave us a lot of energy and a lot of force; he gave us a physical presence," Carlisle said. "I didn't see exactly what happened, but Scott Foster is one of the best officials. If he said a technical foul there, an ejection, then there probably was."
Blair finished with 11 rebounds and 12 points in 16 minutes on the floor.
"He was everywhere on the floor, and he was a big part of us making that run and get back into the lead," Ellis said.
Tony Parker scored just 10 points in 30 minutes for the Spurs, which is also considered an off-night for the guard.
"I'm never happy with anybody's play," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "He didn't have a great game by any means. It happens. I don't think the same guys are going to play great every night in a series."
"Those guys tonight looked like they were doing whatever they wanted to do," Carlisle said. "You just can't do business that way this time of year."
San Antonio was able to even the series with the win in Game 4 of the best of seven series. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili led his team, coming off the bench with 23.
"It was really hard," Ginobili said. "They played the second half with a lot of aggressiveness, they made more shots, DeJuan Blair was huge with his aggressiveness and toughness."
"We got that lead because we moved the ball, we penetrated," Ginobili added. "We didn't get the stops in the second half. That's why they made this run."
The series now returns to San Antonio in what amounts to a best of three series.
"We're still here to play," Nowitzki said. "We've got to down there with confidence and see what happens Wednesday."