DALLAS (Ticker) -- A sure sign of Tony Parker's improvement is the willingness of the San Antonio Spurs to give him the ball down the stretch in the biggest game of the season.
Parker made a clutch layup over two defenders with 1.2 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Spurs to a 112-110 road victory over the league-leading Dallas Mavericks.
Parker had a successful rookie campaign in 2002 and has improved dramatically this season, nearly doubling his scoring average. Even more impressive is the increased responsibility and trust he has been given in his second season as he - not superstar Tim Duncan - is controlling the offense in crucial moments.
The 20-year-old Frenchman missed a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds of regulation but redeemed himself in overtime. After Malik Rose made a layup to forge a 110-110 tie with 39 seconds left, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki missed a jumper at the other end.
Duncan secured the rebound and the Spurs called a timeout with seven seconds left. Rose caught the inbounds pass and drew three defenders before passing to Parker, who drove past Raja Bell and got the shot over the outstretched arms of the 7-foot Nowitzki and 7-6 Shawn Bradley.
"I was the third option and the first two were for Timmy (Duncan), but it wasn't open," said Parker, who made 10-of-21 shots. "I had a lot of confidence and I knew it was going in. I just tried to do it quick because (Bradley and Nowitzki) were coming over."
"He does a good job with that shot and it's one of his favorites," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They executed it well and Tony made a great play. We have a lot of confidence in him."
Dallas' Nick Van Exel, who scored 10 of his season-high 35 points in the final six minutes, missed a 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired.
Duncan collected 25 points and 18 rebounds but did not score in the final seven minutes and did not get many touches.
"I didn't do a thing in overtime. Those guys were doing a great job tonight for us," Duncan said of his teammates. "(Parker) was incredible all night for us. I thought he was great and under control"
"We tried not to concentrate on getting it to him too much," Popovich said. "Tonight he really wasn't the primary guy and our perimeter guys really contributed."
Rose finished with 22 points as San Antonio pulled within 2 1/2 games of Dallas for the best record in the Western Conference.
"I'm happy with where we're at," Parker said. "I want to just improve as a team. If we catch them, we catch them. I'm not worried about that. We just have a long way to go."
"It was made out to be a big game and it was," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win but we competed hard and gave it everything we had. It is going to be a very, very tight race. This obviously makes it a lot tighter."
Rose and Duncan combined to made 21-of-32 shots as the Spurs shot 53 percent (46-of-87).
Nowitzki had 34 points and 12 rebounds and Steve Nash scored 18 points as the Mavericks lost for the third time in six games.
"It was the toughest loss of the year," Nash said. "We made some mistakes but I think we deserved to win as much as they did. It hurts a lot and makes you feel sick."
Dallas played without starting guard Michael Finley, who is sidelined with a strained left hamstring suffered in Tuesday's win over Cleveland.
"I knew I had to be aggressive tonight because I knew Mike wasn't there," Van Exel said. "I was able to make some shots but it was a tough loss. We're still up 2 1/2 games, so we just have to stay positive."
The Spurs had a 96-90 lead after a jumper by Rose with 5:35 remaining, but the Mavericks scored seven of the next nine points. Van Exel capped the burst with a 3-pointer to bring Dallas within 98-97 with 3:38 left.
Duncan scored his final points of the game on a 15-foot jumper with 3:11 left, but Bradley responded with a hook shot at the 2:21 mark.
Dallas' Eduardo Najera made 1-of-2 free throws with 92 seconds remaining and Parker missed an ill-advised 3-pointer at the other end.
Van Exel and Bradley each missed shots for the Mavericks, who turned the ball over with 36 seconds left after Nash allowed the ball to slip through his fingers and across mid-court for a violation.
Parker gave San Antonio a 102-100 edge with a pull-up jumper over Nash with 29 seconds left. But Van Exel hit a tough jumper from the right wing 13 seconds later.
On the next possession, Duncan set a screen for Parker, who missed a wide-open 20-footer. Van Exel got the rebound and missed a shot from just over halfcourt as time expired.