DALLAS — A combination of small ball, guts and resiliency weren't enough to defeat the San Antonio Spurs. Almost, but not quite.

Tony Parker had another impressive offensive performance, Manu Ginobili was stunning at both ends of the court and Tim Duncan recovered from a slow start to lead the Spurs to a 102-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

San Antonio took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 5 set for Tuesday night.

The Mavericks kept the game interesting and close throughout. But in the end, the absence of Dirk Nowitzki due to a sprained knee ligament was too much to overcome.

Parker scored 25 points, Ginobili had a career playoff-high 21 and Duncan — who had only eight points at halftime — added 21 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists for the Spurs, who overcame an emotional and desperate effort from the Mavericks.

Michael Finley and Steve Nash scored 25 apiece and Nick Van Exel added 22 for the Mavericks, whose comeback attempts in the fourth quarter fell short.

With Nowitzki and two other centers injured, the Mavericks had no choice but to go with a small lineup and try to beat San Antonio the same way Phoenix did twice in the first round — collapsing on Duncan on defense and using dribble penetration plays and 3-point shooting on offense.

It almost worked.

And if the Spurs' duo of foreign-born youngsters — Parker and Ginobili — hadn't carried the offense for long stretches, it might have worked.

After San Antonio went ahead 89-80 with a 7-0 run, Dallas came back and pulled within two on a 3-pointer by Raef LaFrentz with 3:12 left. Malik Rose answered with a dunk, and LaFrentz airballed 3-pointer on his final shot attempt of the night. He fouled out less than a minute later.

Duncan hit one of two from the line, Ginobili stole the ball from Walt Williams and Rose scored inside with 2 seconds left on the shot clock for a 96-89 lead with 1:40 left.

Two misses by Van Exel were followed by an offensive foul on Duncan, sending the game into the final minute with San Antonio holding a 96-89 lead.

The Mavs got no closer than five the rest of the way.

Coach Don Nelson added Van Exel and Williams to the starting lineup in place of Nowitzki and Raja Bell and assigned Finley the task of defending the speedy Parker.

The Mavericks attempted 31 3-pointers and made 12, going only 3-for-11 in the second half.

From the looks of things in the first couple of minutes, it appeared the Mavs might break the record for 3-point attempts. Their first two baskets were 3s by Nash and Van Exel, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout in frustration just 1:08 in.

But when the Spurs came back and displayed poor shot selection, Popovich substituted Speedy Claxton, Rose and Ginobili before the game was even 3 minutes old.

Finley hit a jumper at the first-quarter buzzer to give Dallas a 24-21 lead, then scored Dallas' first five points of the second quarter. Ginobili kept the Spurs close in the second quarter, scoring 12 points — including a vicious reverse dunk that even had the Dallas fans gasping.

The Mavericks led 52-47 at intermission, and they continued to play from ahead in the third with the same strategy — driving and kicking or driving and hitting a short pull-up jumper on offense; double- and triple-teaming Duncan on defense.

It worked for a majority of the quarter, but a steal by Stephen Jackson changed things. After swiping the ball from LaFrentz, Jackson dribbled out to the 3-point line, saw that no one was coming to defend him and calmly drained the 3.

Parker followed with a floater and a jumper to put San Antonio ahead for good, 67-66, and Ginobili came flying across the lane to tip in a missed shot with 0.7 seconds left to extend the run to 22-6 and give San Antonio a 77-70 lead entering the fourth.

Jackson had the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to up the Spurs' lead to 81-70, making things look extra bleak for the home team. But the Mavericks weren't finished, as Nash scored seven of the next nine Dallas points to cut the deficit to two, 82-80 with 8:31 left.