SAN ANTONIO (NBA.com exclusive) -- Eighteen minutes -- and a startling 21-point Spurs lead -- into Game 6 on Thursday, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made an adjustment that looked like a last-gasp, desperation.
And, no, it wasn't putting Dirk Nowitzki back into the game just 2 1/2 minutes after Carlisle had pulled him early in the second quarter when Nowitzki picked up his third personal foul.
Carlisle's stab was rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, and with the 22-year-old from Guadeloupe forming an odd couple with Dirk Nowitzki the Mavs erased San Antonio's 22-point advantage and took a lead in the third quarter before their energy -- and Western Conference opening-round series -- was lost.
George Hill made an even bigger name for himself than Beaubois had tried to, because Hill made all four shots and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Spurs hold off the Mavericks for a 97-87 series clinching victory at AT&T Center.
Hill had 21 for the game, which goes along nicely with his 29-point performance off 11-for-16 shooting in Game 4, and the Spurs face the winner of the Phoenix-Portland series. The Western Conference semifinal starts Monday in either Phoenix or Portland.
Nowitzki scored 33 points, including 25 after halftime. Midseason acquisition Caron Butler added 25, and Beaubois chipped in 16 points -- even though he sat the first 9:15 of the fourth quarter.
Hill was 0-for-4 at halftime, and that's when coach Gregg Popovich told him it was time to step up.
"I told him at halftime he was being complacent, deferring too much, being Mr. Nice Guy," Popovich said. "I told him "To hell with the rest of the team. Go get your name in the paper.' "
After the Mavericks erased the Spurs' 22-point lead and took a 57-56 lead on Nowtizki's 3-point shot with 4:57 left in the third quarter, Hill scored five points the rest of the quarter as San Antonio built another lead -- this time seven points.
But the first half, when San Antonio led by as many as 22 points, produced a bulge in the stat sheet that still showed by the end of the game despite the Dallas rally. By game's end San Antonio had:
* Taken 16 more free throws than Dallas;
* Won the points-off-turnovers battle 22-4;
* Scored seven more points off the fast break.
Hill, a second-year guard from IUPUI, was just about the only Spurs player on the floor not generating much offense before Popovich talked to him at halftime. San Antonio flew off to a 22-8 first-quarter lead -- tying a Spurs franchise record for opponents fewest points in a playoff quarter -- when the Mavs missed their final eight shots.
Dallas also turned the ball over five times in the first quarter, and the Spurs led 8-0 in points off mistakes.
"Turnovers were huge," Popovich said, noting the Mavs ability to score off turnovers. "They had 87 (points) tonight, and when they scored 100 they won. So I was real pleased with our overall defense."
The Spurs limited Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to a combined 2-for-13 and five points in Game 6.
The defense made the Mavs become increasingly frustrated. After Nowitzki picked up his third foul less than four minutes into the second quarter, he went to the bench and tossed a towel that landed on the court in front of the Dallas bench.
And when Butler was called for a technical foul for running into Hill with a high forearm, Dallas has been called for 15 fouls to four against San Antonio. Butler converted on a drive before he bumped Hill, and before that the Mavs weren't even shooting 30 percent, while San Antonio was at a 53-percent clip.
More importantly, the Spurs led in points off turnovers 14-0. They outrebounded Dallas 21-14 and outscored the Mavs in the paint 22-10, led in fast break points 8-1 and shot 16 free throws to two.
And that's when Carlisle turned to Beaubois.
"We needed a spark," Carlisle said. "We needed some quickness, some playmaking, some scoring. He's a guy who gave us a lift like that this season. It was a great performance."
Beaubois had played 10 minutes in the series after missing the first two games. But he became an option for Carlisle after J.J. Barea, who had been the first quick option off the bench after Terry, tanked his five minutes of first-quarter play by missing two shots and turning the ball over.
Beaubois came in with six minutes to go in the first half and, even though San Antonio extended the lead to 22 points less than two minutes later, the rookie got the Mavs to less than 20 points away with an assist to Shawn Marion for an easy basket underneath. He followed that with a 3-pointer, then missed one, but came back for a quick layup that cut it to 16.
His 10-foot runner put Dallas behind by 13 with 30 seconds before halftime, and the Mavs could have had it to 10 if Butler could have made a three with less than 10 seconds remaining.
The Mavs cut it to 10 quickly into the second half on Nowitzki's basket and foul shot 15 seconds in, and when he made 5-for-7 to start the quarter, the Mavs would have their only lead of the game -- it lasted 21 seconds.