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Excitement, Exhaustion
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 22, 2006 11:45 p.m. ET

It's a shame… but someone has to lose this series tonight in Game 7. Perhaps prematurely, the clubs with the two best records in their conference had to meet in the West Semifinals in the second round, and the intensity and competitiveness of the series has played out much like a conference championship.

Everybody is leaving everything out on the floor.

"Six games and five desperate finishes have taxed the mind and spirit of both teams, fraying nerves and creating a thrilling, yet exhausting, Western Conference semifinals series," writes Johnny Ludden in the San Antonio Express-News. "As Bruce Bowen said when asked what he and his teammates planned to do Saturday, 'Rest.'
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

"'It's a pretty grueling experience, both mentally and physically,' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in the paper. "But the adrenaline of the playoffs and the competitiveness makes you go. You don't stop until ... you lose or you go on to win a championship."

As Liz Robbins in the New York Times, it's been a grueling playoffs, period:

"Fourteen games have been decided by 1 or 2 points already in this season's playoffs, tying the record set in 1995, according to the N.B.A. There have been eight overtime periods, also a record. Four series have been extended to the seven-game limit. Phoenix came back from a 3-1 deficit in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming only the eighth team to do so. San Antonio is trying to become the ninth, and the Spurs will have the home-court advantage Monday."
-- [New York Times]


Mr. Maverick, Michael Finley, found himself a victim of the amnesty rule this summer, being waived by Dallas following nine seasons with the franchise. To add insult to injury, Finley has been greeted by boes by Maverick crowds.

So it certainly must make it sweeter that it's been Finley who's help changed the tide in this series for San Antonio.

"Although he spent most of his first season with the Spurs as a reserve, Michael Finley has started the past three games. And the Spurs have won all three. Finley spent eight-plus seasons with the Mavs and has used his expertise to help stop some of the things they do. He also buried a key 3-pointer that helped the Spurs win Game 6.

"Starting fits me well in this series," said Finley, who started only 18 games during the regular season. "Defensively, I know their strategies.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]


Dallas owner Mark Cuban said his pregnant wife was "verbally abused" at the AT&T Center last week.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

"It didn't represent the city or Spurs fans," Cuban claimed, according to the San Antonio Express-News. "But that doesn't change the fact that they are the rudest and curse the most."

Spurs followers aren't happy with Cuban after his comments about the River Walk.
-- []


When the Spurs lull Dallas into a slow-tempo game, the Mavericks aren't nearly as an effective team, which is why all series Dallas players have talked about the importance of playing "their game."

The difference is noticeable. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "the Mavs were at their ball-and-player-movement best in the three victories, averaging 113.3 points on 48.3 percent shooting. It's been 89.3 points on 43.5 percent in the three losses, a pace more comfortable for San Antonio."
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Another Dallas columnist wonders what happened to the Mavs' three-point shot?
-- [The Dallas Morning News]

"Specifically, Dirk Nowitzki is the best 7-foot 3-point shooter in league history," writes Tim Cowlishaw in The Dallas Morning News. "And in this series, while he has been spectacular at times, he has made fewer 3-pointers than Keith Van Horn, who didn't get on the court until the second quarter of Game 5."

The Blame Game
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 19, 2006 2:04 p.m. ET

After Dallas went up 3-1, many thought the series was a Mavericks lock.

With Jason Terry suspended and the Spurs fresh off a Game 5 victory, now it's almost as if everybody's giving Dallas an "out" to fall apart.
-- []

Writes David Moore in The Dallas Morning News: Terry "can be sure of this: If the Mavericks lose tonight's game against San Antonio and go on to lose the series, his mistake will be linked to the team's playoff failure."
-- [The Dallas Morning News]

If the Mavericks really are as good as the team people said had this series in the bag, then why are we talking about playoff failure now? This is Jason Terry we're talking about, not DIrk Nowitzki.

As people jump off the Mavericks band wagon amidst the news of Terry's suspension, one Dallas beat writer says the Mavs can beat the Spurs tonight without Terry, but only if they make up their minds to do so.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

"What the Mavs cannot do is allow themselves to use Terry's absence tonight as an excuse to lose," writes Jim Reeves in the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. "Instead, they must turn it into a reason to win."

Granted, everyone who's saying "What the heck was Terry thinking?" are absolutely right. He's a seven-year vet and a point guard, the NBA's equivalent of the quarterback. He has to know better.
-- [The Dallas Morning News Video]

But does he?

"Terry apologized to his teammates, the organization and Mavs fans when he called in on his radio show on ESPN/103.3 FM on Thursday night, but he also said he didn't think what he did merited a suspension."
-- [The Dallas Morning news]

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had a far different view of the incident.

"I was just amazed by it," he told the New York Times Thursday. "This was a punch, he took his fist and punched him in the groin. Nobody would condone that, nobody's going to teach that. He's embarrassed that he did it, I guess."
-- [New York Times]

Terry's importance to the Mavericks is obvious. He's averaging 18.2 points per game against the Spurs, has hit big shots and helped run the offense.

As a co-worker told me this morning, "you can't argue with Lamisil, man.

But the Mavs don't run a traditional point guard offense. Just look at their assist totals.
-- [The Dallas Morning News,]

Devin Harris is expected to take on Terry's role as the ball-handler. The Mavericks can go in a few directions in filling Terry's minutes:
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

"With Devin Harris shifting over to point guard, swingmen Jerry Stackhouse, Marquis Daniels and Adrian Griffin are all possibilities to replace Terry in the lineup. Stackhouse appears to be the likeliest choice, given that Griffin hasn't played at all in the past three games and Daniels has been used more to spell the Dallas post players than to provide backcourt depth."

Griffin started in Game 1 but was replaced by Harris when Mavs coach Avery Johnson wanted to add more speed and scoring, and the result was three straight Dallas wins. After a slow-tempo to the second half of Game 5, Johnson hopes to go back to his team's fast-pace roots again.

"That's what we're looking for," Johnson said. "We're trying to reclaim that style."

Achieving such a team speed figures to be more difficult without Terry, but it's still no excuse. Injuries, suspensions and even mistakes happen in sports, and you've just got to march on.

Nobody seems to believe in the Mavericks anymore. On Friday night when the series tips off for Game 6, we'll see if the Mavericks still believe in themselves.

Now That's Good Stuff!
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 18, 2006 12:09 p.m. ET

"Never has a game or a series been up for grabs in the final seconds like this one," writes Liz Robbins in Thursday's New York Times. "He (Manu Ginobili) made one of two free throws that proved to be the final score of the game. Craziness ensued for the final two minutes."
-- [New York Times]

The San Antonio Spurs barely lived to play another game Wednesday night, achieving a season-saving 98-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Ironically, they did it with defense after being burned for 113.3 points per game in Dallas' three wins.
-- []

The Mavericks' best chance to close the series in last night's thriller came on Dirk Nowitzki's foul line jumper in the waning moments but the attempt was smothered by Spurs forward Bruce Bowen, causing a jump ball with 6.3 seconds left.

"Bruce Bowen scored zero points. He took zero shots. He attempted zero free throws," writes Buck Harvey in today's San Antonio Express News. "No wonder he reached up at the end to put his hand on Dirk Nowitzki's jumper."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Manu Ginobili came up with a couple of scrappy plays of his own down the stretch as well.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Dallas never got a clean look after Bowen's stuff. Jason Terry's fallaway jumper missed the rim entirely and Nowitzki could not follow up as the horn sounded.

After the contest, Terry placed the blame for the loss on himself.

"With 2.4 seconds left, I should have been able to get to the basket," Terry said in the Dallas Morning News. "It's my fault."
-- [Dallas Morning News]


Tim Duncan tied an NBA playoff record by hitting his first 12 field goals, and was unstoppable in the first half, going for 28 points. For the contest, he tallied 36 points on 13-of-19 shooting and 12 rebounds.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Maybe Duncan was playing with a chip on his shoulder after failing to make First Team All-NBA yesterday for the first time in his career.
-- []

Though Nowitzki did earn a spot on the squad, one Dallas beat writer thinks he's got to play more like Duncan in the postseason for the Mavs to grab a Game 6 win.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

A different Dallas scribe isn't nearly as concerned: "Don't panic. Don't worry. Don't sweat it. This series ends Friday in Dallas."
-- [Dallas Morning News]


Four different starting lineups in four games. Zero fourth quarter second chance points. Four fouls in 2:54. The San Antonio Express-News attempts to reveal the hidden keys to last night's Spurs victory.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]


They say "it's the thought that counts" but I have a feeling Tony Parker wouldn't have felt very good about his 24th birthday present if it wasn't a win. The cake and the song were nice though. Parker did his part in achieving the victory, posting 27 points.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Return of the Jedi?
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 17, 2006 11:35 p.m. ET

Just look at Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Ginobili. The Force is with him. Can Manu and the Spurs use The Force to turn this series around?
-- []

I'd say it's possible, given one doesn't need to go too far back in NBA history to find a team that has successfully rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit. The Suns did it in the First Round against the Lakers this season, and on Tuesday, Phoenix forward Boris Diaw gave fellow French countryman Tony Parker a call.
-- []

"He said you feel like everything is not going your way, like it's not your year," Parker said in the San Antonio Express News. "But they came back. It's a good example to follow."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Peter Vecsey asks in Wednesday's New York Post, "What makes me believe the Spurs have any chance to overcome those odds? Because the past has nothing to do with what went on Monday night, what'll happen on the court tonight, and what's going on in the resilient minds of a championship squad secure in its superiority and whose wagons are circled in adversity."
-- [New York Post]

"Amazingly," Spurs forward Robert Horry told the Washington Post, "when we came in today, nobody was down. Usually, when you come in guys are complaining or moaning about what's going on. Everybody was cheerful. Everybody is looking forward to getting back out on the court and getting a win."
-- [Washington Post]

Former Spurs executive Bob Bass tells the San Antonio Express-News he believes the squad has a heck of a shot at coming back and winning the series.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

San Antonio fans weigh in with their thoughts as well.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

A warning to those Spurs fans: the Fort Worth Star-Telegram lists the Spurs' playoff history with coach Gregg Popovich and star Tim Duncan when facing elimination, and it ain't pretty.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

This and That

Mavs guard Jason Terry says sticking to the system will be the key in his playoffs diary.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Dirk Nowitzki sings to himself at the line before big free throws, and you'd never guess whose music he's singing.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Terry Plays Hero As the Mavs Take 3-1 Lead
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 16, 2006 12:04 p.m. ET

Kevin Sherrington in Tuesday's Dallas Morning News writes, "Take a close look, commissioner: You just watched the Mavs grow up before your very eyes. Only eight teams have come back from a 3-1 series deficit, and the Spurs don't have any experience in the matter.

"This one's over."
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg req'd]

Jason Terry's rainbow jumper late in overtime capped one of the best playoff games in recent memory and put the exclamation point on the Mavericks' thrilling 123-118 overtime Game 4 victory over the Spurs, whose title defense suddenly is in major trouble.
-- []

In this series, and perhaps even over his entire Dallas tenure, Terry has been the forgotten man in the Big D. From the time he arrived two years ago after four seasons in a starring role with the Hawks, Terry was overlooked, getting relegated to the bench on opening night of the 2004-05 season in favor of a rookie point guard named Devin Harris.

On Monday night, the story of the Mavericks' critical Game 4 win wasn't Harris, whose strong series has gained him a newfound respect in the league. Nor was it Dirk Nowitzki, who's strong season has gained him a newfound respect as well.

It was Terry, whose stat-line of 32 points and five assists only tell half the story of his efforts, as Spurs beat writer Mike Finger highlights.
-- [San Antonio Express News]

"Over the final 12:06, Terry scored 14 points. Three times in the fourth quarter, Terry hit jumpers either to pull the Mavericks within a point, tie the score or give them the lead. His last shot of regulation, which put the Mavericks ahead 109-108 with 23 seconds left, came when he calmly threw in a shot from near the top of the key after receiving a pass from Harris.

"'(Terry) is one of the best clutch players I've ever played with," Dirk Nowitzki said. "He doesn't care how much time is on the clock.'"

A Back-and-Forth Affair

On the Spurs side, there were critical shots hit and missed, from Michael Finley's big three-pointer, to Tony Parkers' missed free throws to Tim Duncan's failed hook shot. For the contest, Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili totaled 90 points and 19 rebounds in their best game of the season.
-- [Forth Worth Star-Telegram]

"It's a heavyweight fight," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "A slugfest. Boy, each team was throwing punches. Fortunately, we had a little more in the tank."
-- [Forth Worth Star-Telegram]

Time Running Out For Spurs?

As Dallas columnists essentially say the series is over, like here and here, Liz Robbins' New York Times article "In Race Against Time, Spurs Lose a Step" examines if age is a factor in the series -- 11 of the 13 players on the Spurs' playoff roster were born in the 1970's.
-- [Dallas Morning News, New York Times Reg req'd]

Spurs guard Brent Barry "acknowledged that the question of age was relevant. 'It will have to play itself out,' he said. 'Hopefully, that experience will help us. I thought it did in the last game. We kept battling back. We found ways to keep ourselves in the ballgame. That's what not only good teams do, but veteran teams.'"

The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung

Call me crazy but I think those who believe this series is "over" are being preemptive. It wouldn't at all surprise me if the experience helped the Spurs, and they forced a Game 7, and won it. San Antonio is too good of a team from a mental standpoint not to have a fighting chance. Just this season we saw the Suns storm back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Lakers.

No Pain, No Gain: Dirk to Play Tonight in Game 4
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 15, 2006 11:15 a.m. ET

What will it take for Dirk Nowitzki to sit out Game 4 after rolling his ankle in a Game 3 Mavericks win that gave Dallas a 2-1 series edge?

"If I lose a leg," Nowitzki told reporters after not practicing Sunday.
-- [New York Times, Reg req'd]

The Mavericks star forward will play Monday night when Dallas hosts San Antonio in a critical contest for both sides.

"It's pretty stiff," Nowitzki said about the ankle. "I rolled it pretty good, and I got up every two hours to ice it. It's got a little swelling, and it's nothing I haven't seen before."
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg req'd]

"He knows what's at stake," teammate Jerry Stackhouse added. "No way I see him not being out there."

2-1 Can Become 2-2 in a Heartbeat

The momentum of this series is certainly in favor of the Mavericks, winners of two straight and having the homecourt advantage in tonight's game. But Dallas fans shouldn't begin celebrating just yet. San Antonio has won three NBA titles since 1999. They're a savvy team with enough playoff experience to know not to panic.

As the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen writes, "having suffered such a crushing defeat (Saturday in Game 3), the Spurs did not seem to feel all that crushed."
-- [Houston Chronicle]

Manu Ginobili tells Johnny Ludden in Monday's the team isn't lost like 'everybody thinks.'
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Michael Finley said it's important to remain "mentally consistent" even when the press is anticipating a victory parade one moment and then writing your obituary the next. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says that's just the reality of the playoffs.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg req'd]

Happy Mother's Day!

Also according to Ludden's article, after a late-game goof Saturday by Jerry Stackhouse which gave the Spurs a shot at winning the contest, Stackhouse couldn't even draw sympathy from his own mother.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Jason Terry Diary

Mavs point guard Jason Terry posted a diary entry Monday for the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. Here's an excerpt:
-- [Star-Telegram]

"I think we're all playing with confidence now, because we're playing our tempo and our style. And when we're doing that and getting stops on the defensive end, we're a tough team to beat. It's the playoffs, and the champs are just not going to go away. If you get up 10 or 12 , the lead is not safe. You have to continue to do what got you the lead, and I thought we went away from that [during portions of Game 3]. We didn't run as much, so our job coming into Game 4 is to keep that pace up for 48 minutes."

A Little Assistance

I have to admit, I was shocked at the boxscore Saturday night: Dallas won and scored 104 points with only 12 assists, with Terry contributing four and Devin Harris, the other starting guard, putting up a donut.
-- []

Kevin Sherrington of the The Dallas Morning News touches on this in today's column, writing "the amazing aspect of the Mavs' highly effective offense is that they don't have a true point guard and they're not good passers, either."
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg req'd]

Tony vs. Devin

According to the New York Times, "Harris had scored 20 points in the Mavericks' first five playoff games combined, averaging 13.8 minutes. In the past two games, he averaged 22 points and 35 minutes, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and outplaying his Spurs counterpart, Tony Parker."
-- [New York Times]

Robert Horry told the paper Harris is "getting to the rack. His speed is great, his change of direction is really good. I'm starting to think with Tony's leg the way it is, he's a little faster than Tony."

The San Antonio Express-News' Ludden agrees, and tells us that Popovich claims without Tim Duncan -- averaging 31.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 61.4 percent this series – playing like "MVP Timmy," San Antonio would "be in a lot of trouble."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Duncan posted a number of career-lows during the regular season, so it's nice to see him getting back to his old self.

His Own Man

Popovich doesn't want the media to call Mavs coach and former Spurs point guard Avery Johnson a Popovich protégé anymore.

"He's been in the league 90 years," the Spurs coach said.
-- [Star-Telegram]

The Video Links

NBA TV previews Monday's action

TNT previews Game 4

Expect Changes, But a Team Is What It Is
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 12, 2006 11:32 a.m. ET

The Playoffs are about adjustments. It's a chess match in which teams are constantly adapting to the strategy of the opponent in the previous contest.

In Game 2, Dallas did just that by swapping Adrian Griffin with Devin Harris in the lineup to add more scoring, and it worked, to the tune of a 28-point increase.

Rest assured, Gregg Popovich and his team are hard at work figuring out a way to counter that in Game 3. But as the Star Telegram's Art Garcia writes, there's only so many identities a team can take on:

"How many game-deciding, momentum-turning changes can either team really make? What hasn't one side -- or one coach -- not seen from the other?"
-- [DFW Star-Telegram]

As Mavs coach Avery Johnson said in the paper: "It still gets down to basic basketball. Pick-and-rolls, post-ups, isolations, transition defense, rebounding."

The San Antonio's Express-News' Mike Finger believes the Mavericks' Game 2 strategy wasn't any sort of new change but rather Dallas reverting back to its old ways:

"Tuesday's romp was evidence that they haven't completely abandoned their fast-paced roots."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Violence on Television

Perhaps the most interesting perspective on the series came from a television columnist:
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

"Boy, I thought I'd grown somewhat immune to violence on TV, but I can't get a recent telecast out of my head because of all the battering and bloodletting. I'm talking about the most recent Spurs-Mavericks contest, which had tempers flaring, bodies colliding and Manu Ginobili's mouth bleeding. Switching back and forth Tuesday between that and this week's "Sopranos" repeat, I'd say HBO's mobster series was almost tame next to the game. Even the usually smiling Eva Longoria looked concerned."

Manu Mania, The Other Kind

A couple of good articles on the challenges the banged-up Manu Ginobili faces appeared in the papers today: Check out stories from Dwaine Price of the Forth-Worth Star-Telegram and Johnny Ludden of the San Antonio Express-News on the subject.

"I'm not carrying that energy or that confidence that I had last year," Ginobili said in the Dallas Forth-Worth Star-Telegram. "I've been very irregular this season."

Popovich explained why last year's playoff star has had trouble getting on track: "He plays so frenetically and so dynamically that it's been tough for him to get into a flow for a very long time, just because of bumps and bruises. He's not that strong of a kid. He's not that big. So when he gets an injury, it takes him a while to get back and to play with it."
-- [DFW Star-Telegram]

Nick's Disappearing Nights

According to the San Antonio-Express News, one of the reasons current Spurs backup point guard Nick Van Exel was signed last summer was because of the Spurs' memories of his clutch performances against them while Van Exel was a Maverick in the 2003 Western Conference Finals. The once-feared scorer averaged 19.5 points per game during the Mavs' 20 postseason contests.

This year, Van Exel's shooting 17.4 percent in the playoffs. Even so, Van Exel isn't being particularly hard on himself.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Spurs' Parker, Ginobili Benefit From Three-Day Layoff
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 11, 2006 11:08 a.m. ET

In Thursday's San Antonio Express-News, Spurs beat writer Johnny Ludden's article "At last, a lengthy lengthy break" dicusses the beneficial timing of Game 3 for San Antonio.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

The Spurs engaged in a hard-fought six game series with Sacramento in the First Round, and didn't arrive back in San Antonio until the day before Game 1 of the conference semifinals tipped off. Though the club shook off their fatigue to manage a two-point home win over Dallas in Game 1, the hectic schedule took it's toll in Game 2.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined for just 28 points, and Parker, in particular, seemed pretty timid and banged up thanks to his slew of aches and pains. The three off days couldn't come at a better time for both players.
-- [Rebel Ballin']

Ludden writes, "Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker shuffled between the massage table and the whirlpool Wednesday afternoon, each doing well enough to remember what hurts where."

"For more than a week — even with Parker's bruises having bruises and Ginobili needing a bandage to cover a gash above his chin — Popovich has declared his two guards 'fine.' But while the everybody-plays-hurt, no-excuses mantra is noble, there is a difference between feeling 'fine' and 'good,' and as fine as Ginobili and Parker may be, they most certainly aren't good."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Perhaps that's why the Spurs have shot 26.9 percent from three-point range in the series, well below the 38.5 percent they converted during the regular season. In fact, outside of Tim Duncan, Spurs' players are struggling to put the ball in the hole from anywhere. Duncan's shooting 58.8 percent through two games, compared to the rest of the team's mark of 38.8 percent.
-- [DFW Star-Telegram]'s Chris Ballard looks at what's missing by pointing out Spurs centers Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed have totaled one point in 23 minutes in this series. The franchise attempted to get more help for Duncan last offseason by signing free agent Fabricio Oberto, considered one of the top players in Europe, but the 31-year-old NBA rookie managed to muster just 1.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game this year and can't crack the rotation.
-- []

San Antonio owns the draft rights to talented Lithuanian big man Robertas Javtokas, prompting one fan to ponder whether he'll be in a Spurs uniform next season:
-- [Real GM]

"Are you guys bringing him over next season? I'm surprised you got him too. He's far better than rasho or nazr imo and the guy can jump through the building. You're team will be unbeatable with duncan and javtokas as bigs. imo. He's an amazing defender and can get you 10-12 per(mostly dunks). What an evil lineup."

Evil? Sounds pretty good. But for now, they'll have to go with what they got, and what they have is a roster that won 63 games and has bounced back from adversity all year. Internet blog 20 Second Timeout believes the Spurs will do just that, again:
-- [20 Second Timeout]

"San Antonio narrowly won the first game versus Dallas and got waxed in game two. Dallas clearly is in the better position at the moment since the Mavs play the next two games at home. The funny thing about the playoffs, though, is that momentum changes from one game to the next. The Spurs are a veteran laden team that is defending a title and they are more than capable of winning a game (or two) in Dallas. I still expect San Antonio to win this series."

Dallas Proves Worthy of Respect in Game 2
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 10, 2006 12:04 p.m. ET

Take a look at the expert's selections for this series on
-- []

It didn't matter that the regular season series was split 2-2, or that just three wins seperated these two teams in the Southwest Division standings. It didn't matter that Dallas swept Memphis in the First Round while the Spurs were getting a run for their money from No. 8 seed Sacramento.

Four out of five journalists picked San Antonio to win it, and of the Spurs believers, only John Hollinger believed the series would last seven games. Where's the respect?

Last night, Dallas proved that, perhaps, they aren't getting enough. After losing Game 1 on the road by just two points, the Mavericks blew out the Spurs in San Antonio, 113-91. Suddenly, a series victory seems more than attainable.
-- []

Avery Johnson changed the tide when he tweaked his Game 2 starting lineup, replacing defensive swingman Adrian Griffin with speedy up-tempo point guard Devin Harris. And what do you know? Dallas scored 28 more points this time out -- the combined total of the Spurs' starting backcourt in the contest.

Harris Proves To Be The Difference-Maker

With two point guards, Harris and Jason Terry in the starting lineup, Mavericks to played their game on offense rather than letting the Spurs get them into another grind-it-out affair.

The Dallas Morning News writes "no one on the (coaching) staff raised an eyebrow when (Avery) Johnson said Devin Harris would start."

"We had some pretty good statistical evidence from Mark [Cuban's] people to back up the decision," assistant Del Harris told the paper. "We felt like we at least needed a 95-point game to win. They're difficult to beat in an 80-point game. We can push the ball better with Devin because he gives us two guards who can really get out and run."
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Dallas scored six fast break points in a decisive second quarter in which they went on a 15-3 run in less than five minutes to turn the game into a blowout. By intermission, the Mavs held a 20-point lead.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

For the game, Harris contributed 20 points and didn't commit a turnover for the contest.

"Simply put, Harris' speed and quickness broke down Pop's defense," wrote the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Even his half-court defense. And if anything can worry the Spurs, it's definitely that."
-- [DFW Star-Telegram]

The other hero of the contest was Josh Howard, who according to the paper, "epitomized Dallas' take-it-to-the-rim approach and led the team with 27 points. The Mavericks are now 20-0 when he scores 20 points."
-- [DFW Star-Telegram]

Howard tallied 27 points and nine rebounds for the game, and may be the heart and soul of this team. Dallas struggled during the regular season with an 8-6 record in his absence.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

OK, But What Was Up With the Spurs?

Yes, Dallas played great defense, but the Spurs' inability to hang with Dallas was partly their own fault. San Antonio "let things get out of hand by not making a basket the last 6:59 of the (second) period, missing its final nine shots," wrote the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
-- [DFW Star Telegram]

Manu Ginobili was 1-of-5 in the first half, and finished with 13 for the game. Quite obviously, the fact that the Mavs used two point guards at once didn't create the defensive mismatch one might expect at the two-guard slot, given how Ginobili performed.

"Is he hurt? Or just suffering from a Ron Artest hangover? For the second straight game, Ginobili didn't create any of his usual South of the Border disorder," reported
-- []

One theme San Antonio coaches and players continually brought up in their post-game comments was Dallas' aggressiveness.

Internet blog TrueHoop hits the nail on the head in its reaction to the game:

"How do you get a playoff blowout win in San Antonio? With attitude. Watch the highlights of the Mavericks -Spurs last night. Just about every Dallas player has a vicious scowl on their faces at all times. I don't know what's in their Gatorade bottles, but it's strong stuff. These guys are amped up."
-- []

For the Spurs to bounce back, Tim Duncan, who had 28 points and nine rebounds, is going to need more help from his teammates. Not only was Ginobili not a big factor, but as the Maverick blog Rebel Ballin' points out Tony Parker "seemed pretty timid and banged up thanks to his slew of aches and pains."
-- [Rebel Ballin']

Lucky for Parker, Game 3 isn't until Saturday, offering him time to rest. If Parker and Ginobili can't step up their game, then getting past the Mavericks in this series will be far more difficult than the experts originally predicted.

It's been a tightly-contested series between the West's best.
(Stephen Dunn/Getty/NBAE)
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on what he told his team at Sunday's practice:

"Don't forget who we are."
-- [Chicago Tribune]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
May 5 -- The Wait Continues
April 28 -- One for the Little Guy
April 19 -- Still Mostly Cloudy
April 14 -- You Can Do Magic
April 6 -- Work to be Done
Mar. 31 -- Will Suns Rise?
Mar. 24 -- Artest Fit For A King
Mar. 17 -- Almost Doesn't Count
Mar. 10 -- A Magical Game
Mar. 3 -- Revenge of the Herds
Feb. 13 -- The Heat is On
Feb. 10 -- Left Out in the Cold
Feb. 3 -- We're Going Streaking!
Jan. 27 -- Trade Winds Blow
Jan. 23 -- Points a Plenty
Jan. 20 -- Give the King a Break
Jan. 13 -- Who's the Man?
Dec. 1 -- Welcome Back, Larry
Nov. 17 -- League Pass Surfing
Nov. 10 -- Setting OWGs Straight
Nov. 4 -- Season Underway
Oct. 27 -- The Central Is Stacked
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive