DALLAS – Tony Parker came out as promised, aggressively going right at the basket.

However, one spectacular half and a late surge by Parker couldn’t save San Antonio from the brink of playoff elimination against the Dallas Mavericks.

Josh Howard scored 28 points, seven in an early second-half spurt that put the Mavericks ahead to stay in a 99-90 victory Saturday that gave them a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.

Parker had 31 of his 43 points by halftime, matching George Gervin’s franchise playoff record for points in a half. That came after he was held to 12 points in Game 3, when the Spurs lost 88-67 in their lowest-scoring playoff game ever.

Without an incredible comeback, the Spurs will be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. They have been in every postseason since and won three NBA titles.

Big comebacks by Parker and Tim Duncan weren’t enough for San Antonio.

Hornets 95, Nuggets 93

NEW ORLEANS – Chris Paul played as hard and long as needed to give the New Orleans Hornets a desperately needed victory in the playoffs.

Paul had 32 points and 12 assists in 46 minutes, helping New Orleans hold on for a 95-93 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday in Game 3 of their first-round series.

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points for Denver, but missed a jumper that could have put the Nuggets in the lead with under 5 seconds left. James Posey, playing with a sprained knee, corralled the rebound and New Orleans held on, pulling to 2-1 in the series with Game 4 coming up on Monday night.

David West had 19 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Rasual Butler scored 17 points and Posey had 13 points and nine rebounds, none bigger than his last with 3.2 seconds left.

Chauncey Billups scored 16 points, J.R. Smith had 14, Linas Kleiza 13 and Kenyon Martin 12.

Heat 107, Hawks 78

MIAMI – Dwyane Wade swished a 3-pointer, then turned and shook his hand like it was burning.

Yep, Wade and the Miami Heat are that hot right now.

Wade finished with 29 points and eight assists, Jermaine O’Neal added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat extended Atlanta’s decade-plus road playoff drought, coasting to a huge halftime lead before beating the Hawks 107-78 Saturday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.

Lakers 108, Jazz 94

SALT LAKE CITY – Kobe Bryant followed his worst shooting game in years by scoring 38 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Utah Jazz and a 3-1 series lead.

Bryant, who was 16-for-24, scored Los Angeles’ first 11 points and once his teammates joined in, the Lakers overwhelmed the Jazz and moved within one game of advancing to the second round.

Lamar Odom had 10 points and 15 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 13 points for the Lakers, who host Game 5 on Monday night.

Deron Williams had 23 points and 13 assists and Carlos Boozer also scored 23 and pulled down 16 rebounds for Utah.

The Jazz won Game 3 on Thursday, holding Bryant to a 5-for-24 shooting night and 18 points.


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