SAN ANTONIO, May 21 (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan
made sure there wasn't
another collapse by the San Antonio Spurs.
Duncan took charge down the stretch and single-handedly stopped
another raging rally by the Dallas Mavericks, leading the Spurs
to a 119-106 victory that evened the Western Conference finals
at one game each.
As they did in Game 1, the top-seeded Spurs led virtually the
entire game.This time, they held on handily thanks to Duncan,
who had 32 points and 15 rebounds as he flashed the form that
has made him the two-time NBA MVP.
The third-seeded Mavericks were trying to stage a repeat of
their comeback in the opener, when they erased an 18-point
deficit and stunned the Spurs with a 113-110 win. They dug
themselves a 28-point hole in the first half Wednesday, then
shot their way out of it, pulling within 103-94 on a three-pointer
by Michael Finley with 5:40 to go.
"It's tough. We talked about it," Duncan said. "They just came
down and made some threes. But we were still up eight. All we
were thinking was keep scoring and play some defense."
Duncan answered with a 15-footer. Nick Van Exel converted a
driving three-point play to make it an eight-point game, but
Duncan scored inside, rebounded a missed three-pointer by Van Exel
and blocked a shot by Dirk Nowitzki, leading to Tony Parker's
layup and a 109-97 lead with 3:53 to play.
After Van Exel made a three-pointer, Duncan coolly passed out of a
double-team to rookie Manu Ginobili, whose three-pointer made it
112-100 with 2:32 left and took the mettle out of the Mavs.
"Duncan was huge," Nowitzki admitted. "Every time we really got
close, he picked up a huge rebound or a huge basket that would
put them momentum back in their favor."
Malik Rose scored 25 points off the bench and led a procession
to the foul line by the Spurs, who sank 37-of-45 free throws
compared to 20-of-22 by the Mavs. Rose made 15-of-18 free
throws and Duncan 10-of-13.
"I was just trying to make something happen," said Rose, who
took a knee to the head from Dallas forward Eduardo Najera in
the fourth quarter of the opener. "My energy and hustle added
to it tonight."
"He's so huge for us," Duncan said. "When they go small, he can
stay out there."
It was a huge turnaround from Game 1, when San Antonio made
31-of-48 free throws and Dallas sank 49-of-50.
"We felt we let the game get away from us Monday night," Rose
said. "This series easily could have been 2-0, or 0-2. Just a
couple of plays made the difference."
The I-35 series shifts 200 miles north to Dallas, which hosts
Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday and needs to regain
its composure. Coach Don Nelson and assistant Del Harris were
ejected as the Mavs racked up five technical fouls in the first
half debating officials instead of defending their basket.
"We lost our composure a little," said Nowitzki, who also was
hit with a technical. "In the first half, we complained about
every call. We have to just calm down and let our game speak
"The players on the court should dictate the game, nobody else,"
said Van Exel, who received a T of his own. "Somebody else
took this game from us. Let us play the game. Let the players
Finley scored 29 points and a foul-plagued Nowitzki added 23 for
the Mavs, who fired 30 three-pointers, making 12. That was about
the only thing working for them.
In the first half, the Spurs nearly ran the Mavs out of the SBC
Center. Nelson and Harris opted to walk instead.
With 2:46 left in the first quarter, Nowitzki on the bench with
three fouls and the Mavs trailing, 22-16, Nelson came up the
sideline to argue with Joey Crawford, who ordered him to return
to the bench. When Nelson didn't, Crawford tossed him.
"The manner with which he was ejected was surprising to us,"
said Mavs assistant Donnie Nelson, the coach's son.
"Everyone knows around the league you don't mess with Joey
Crawford," Rose said.
Harris lasted about another quarter, getting thrown out by
Crawford for walking onto the court at the 2:16 mark to argue
with Dallas down, 64-36.
"Del came to my partner (Ted Bernhardt) at a timeout and said
that he was going to get ejected and to eject him on one
(technical)," Crawford said. "This isn't unusual."
"Nelly probably needed some company back there," Finley said.
Nowitzki picked up three fouls in the first seven-plus minutes
and took a seat. The Spurs took full advantage as Duncan and
Rose took control of the interior on both ends and helped build
a 33-16 lead.
Rose fueled a 20-5 run that opened the second period and gave
San Antonio a 55-29 lead with just under seven minutes to go. By
that time, Nowitzki was back, but there was very little he
could do to slow down the Spurs.
"They came out way more aggressive than we did and that's why
they got the calls," Nowitzki said.
After Harris was thrown out, Dallas used an 8-0 spurt to make it
a 20-point game. But a jumper and three-pointer by Parker
gave San Antonio a 69-44 lead and a team playoff record for
points in a half.
In the first half, Duncan and Rose combined for 39 points -- 21
from the line -- as they pushed around the Mavs. The Spurs made
26-of-28 free throws and held a 15-0 lead in second-chance
"This is an emotional playoff series, and taking the ball hard
to the basket has its place," Mavs assistant Donnie Nelson said.
"Tonight we didn't get to the free-throw line enough.'
Dallas pulled within 17 points in the third quarter but was
derailed by Nowitzki, who picked up two more fouls in a
four-minute span. The second led to a three-point play by Rose
that made it 87-67 with 3:39 left.
Even with Duncan on the bench with foul trouble early in the
fourth quarter, the Spurs maintained a 99-80 lead until a
3-point barrage from Van Exel, Finley and Nowitzki put Duncan
back to work.
"You bust your butt, but no matter what we can do, they're going
to get open and hit some long-range shots," Popovich said.
Parker scored 19 points and Stephen Jackson added 17 for the
Spurs, who shot 48 percent (39-of-81) and held a 51-41 advantage
on the glass.
Raef LaFrentz scored 15 points, Van Exel added 13 and Steve Nash
12 for the Mavs, who shot 41 percent (37-of-90).