SAN ANTONIO, May 17 (Ticker) --
With their reign as NBA champions on
the line, the San Antonio Spurs finally got the stops they
and Bruce Bowen
made great defensive plays down
the stretch and the Spurs held on for a season-saving 98-97
victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western
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was again a major force, posting 36 points and 12 rebounds
for the top-seeded Spurs, who still face a 3-2 deficit in a
series that is quickly becoming a classic. The defending
champions ended their first three-game losing streak of the
season with their trademark defense.
"We didn't want to go on vacation yet," Ginobili said. "We knew
that if we played hard, we could be in a position to beat
"This was just two teams that refused to lose," Dallas coach
said. "You have to take your hat off to them.
But we make no excuses. Win or lose, I'm proud of the effort
and I'm proud of the team."
San Antonio had surrendered an average of 113.3 points in losing
the last three games as it was unable to stop the overall
quickness of Dallas. For the first time since the series
opener, the Spurs were not let down by their defense - and got a
break or two.
"You don't deserve anything. You just go play the game," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich
said. "If you start thinking about what
you deserve or don't deserve, then you'll lose focus. You just
go out and play."
A free throw by Ginobili, who scored 18 points, gave the Spurs a
98-97 lead with 1:59 remaining, and neither team scored again.
With 1:08 to go, Ginobili stole the ball from Game 4 hero
The Mavericks got back the ball and went to Dirk Nowitzki
had 31 points and 10 rebounds. But the 7-footer had his
foul-line jumper smothered by Bowen, one of the top
defenders in the league. A jump ball was called with 6.3
"I was just fortunate enough to get my hand over the ball,"
Bowen said. "He was rising up. I think he felt he got enough
space in between me and him at that point and he went to go pull
"I didn't see him," said Nowitzki, who made 13-of-22 shots. "He
made a great defensive play. I probably could have up faked
one more time and possibly created more separation. But give
Bruce credit - he blocked me from behind and that was a great
Popovich marveled at Bowen's game-saving play.
"You can see why coaches select him to be on the NBA First Team
All-Defense," Popovich said. "He really takes great pride in it,
and how do you guard Dirk? I've stayed up late seeing his face
at night because you just can't stop a guy like that. But
Bruce made a heck of a play in forcing the jump ball and that
one was unbelievable."
On the ensuing jump ball, Nowitzki won the tip to Terry, who was
tied up by Ginobili with 3.4 seconds to go as he tried to call
The following jump ball wound up in the hands of Dallas forward
, who called timeout with 2.4 seconds remaining. The
Mavericks went to Terry, whose fallaway jumper was an airball
that Nowitzki could not follow up as the horn sounded.
scored 27 points and Michael Finley
added 12 for the
Spurs, who shot 54 percent (37-of-69) from the field. Duncan
made 13-of-19 shots, including his first 12.
Howard scored 16 points and Terry and Devin Harris
apiece for the Mavericks, who shot 51 percent (39-of-77) and get
another chance in Friday's Game 6 at home.
"We put ourselves in this position when we won Game 2 (here)
and then we went home and defended our court," Johnson said.
"Now we just look forward to Friday night. We'll treat that
game like it's a Game 7."
"It's good to give them a little bit adversity," Popovich said.
"We'll go up to Dallas on Friday and try to do the same thing
we did tonight."
A breakaway dunk by Ginobili gave the Spurs an 86-80 lead before
the Mavericks ran off eight straight points for an 88-86 edge
with 6:42 left.
A driving dunk by Finley and a three-point play by Duncan - who
had missed his last five shots - restored a 91-90 lead with 5:38
to play. Two free throws by Finley and a running hook by
Ginobili pushed the margin to 95-90 with 3:57 to go.
"I think Manu is the best competitive player I've ever been
around," Popovich said. "Those are the plays we want him to
make during the game. The steals, layups and the hook in the
lane when we needed a basket, all of that is huge and he comes
up with plays that help you win a basketball game."
Back came Dallas, as Jerry Stackhouse
made two free throws and
Nowitzki buried a 3-pointer - his first of the series - for a
95-95 tie just 41 seconds later.
Duncan was unstoppable in the first half, making all 11
shot attempts and scoring 28 points. In the process, he put centers
and Erick Dampier
and forward Keith Van Horn
, seeing his first action since March due to a broken hand, in
"I had to be aggressive early," Duncan said. "I was able to get
a couple of shots to go down early and it just went from there.
I didn't think I was in a zone or anything because I missed
five or so in a row (in the second half)."
Despite Duncan's dominance and another flying start by Parker,
the Spurs could not create serious separation from the
Mavericks. Their biggest first-half lead was 37-29 early in the
second quarter on a 3-pointer by Brent Barry
Using their advantage in quickness, Dallas rallied and took a
55-54 lead on a driving dunk by Stackhouse.
Parker re-emerged in the third quarter with 12 points. He
followed Duncan's three-point play with two free throws, a steal
and a layup for an 81-71 advantage with 2:51 to play.
"I'm just trying to create and I wanted to play aggressive,"
Parker said. "We were at home, in front of our home crowd.
Sometimes, you feel a little faster."