SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- San Antonio Spurs' reserve Manu Ginobili is talented enough to be part of just about any starting lineup in the NBA.
And as the defending NBA champions found out Monday, that includes them.
Ginobili scored a season-high 37 points in the Spurs' 97-95 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday in his first start of the season.
Ginobili was a game-time decision and played despite still recovering from a bruised finger he got Sunday against Portland.
"I woke up feeling pretty good. ... After I saw I could dribble and shoot pretty well, I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to try and help the guys," Ginobili said.
The starting lineup change came because Tim Duncan was out with a sprained right ankle he sustained on Sunday.
"They're still a good team without Duncan," said Jason Terry, who had 20 points for the Mavericks. "They have good solid veterans, and give credit to Ginobili. ... He was the hot man, and everything we threw at him he took advantage of."
Tony Parker added 23 points for the Spurs, who lost almost all of an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Josh Howard led the Mavericks with 22 points and nine rebounds and Dirk Nowitzki had 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Spurs won their fourth game in a row and remained unbeaten at home as they made up for a 105-92 November loss to the Mavericks.
After trailing by 10 points in the first half, the Spurs went on a 16-5 run to open the third quarter. Ginobili spearheaded the effort, scoring seven of his 16 third-quarter points during the run. He tied the game at 49 with 10:21 to play and the Spurs got their first lead of the game, 53-52, off Parker's fast break layup with 8:06 to go.
Outscoring the Mavericks 31-17 in the third quarter, the Spurs built a 73-66 lead to end the period as San Antonio took control of the game for the first time all night. They went up by 11 in the fourth before Dallas closed in.
"We weren't very good for enough of this game. The breakdowns are very disappointing," said Dallas coach Avery Johnson. "Once the guys get sick and tired of having the same breakdowns over and over again, like I am, then we'll have some consistency."
Dallas got within four for the third time with 58 seconds to go after Terry stole Michael Finley's inbounds pass at the Mavericks' end of the court for a dunk to make it 97-93.
Terry then hit a layup but missed the free throw and chance for a three-point play. With 3 seconds to play, San Antonio's Francisco Elson blocked Terry's layup attempt and Nowitzki missed a last-second 3.
"He came free. He had a stone-cold, wide-open 3 and, boy, we thought it was going down," Johnson said.
Brandon Bass added 18 points for the Mavs off the bench. Usual starter Finley scored 14 points for the Spurs as a reserve, including four 3-pointers.
"We knew Manu and Tony were going to take this game over. You've got to give them credit. They played a great game, both of them," Nowitzki said. "They made shots and tough buckets in the lane over our centers. ... We should have won this game, but we didn't."
The matchup between the Texas rivals was physical at times, but both teams said it was just a result of the type of intense play that should be expected when they meet.
"That's just good, tough basketball. I'm sure that's the way they play, and so do we," Terry said.
With 7:50 left in the first half Parker fell to the floor after running the court alongside Terry on a fast break. Terry was called for a clear-path foul and Parker, apparently OK, hit two free throws. Terry also got a technical early in the third quarter.
"It's always that fine line between physical and all those extra hits we don't need," Parker said. "You know, it was just a physical game. That's it."
Soon after the foul involving Parker, Terry went for seven points in a three-minute span for Dallas, putting the Mavericks up 43-33 with 4:14 to play in the half. Dallas was up 49-42 at the break.
Before the game, Johnson was asked about playing the Spurs minus Duncan. Even when told that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had confirmed the day before that Duncan would be out, Johnson joked: "I haven't gotten the official starting lineup yet." ... Devean George and Eddie Jones continued to sit out for the Mavericks. ... The Mavericks outrebounded the Spurs 38-33. ... The Spurs had a 44-36 advantage in the paint.