DALLAS, May 13 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki
put a new twist on what is
becoming a Texas-sized rivalry.
Hobbling on a sprained ankle, Nowitzki made a handful of clutch
plays in the final minute to lift the Dallas Mavericks to a
stirring 104-103 victory over the San Antonio Spurs and a 2-1
lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.
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One of the better playoff games in NBA history was a
one-possession affair for the last 8 1/2 minutes. There were
three ties and a dozen lead changes in the final six minutes,
with the defending champion Spurs refusing to give in and the
upstart Mavericks unwilling to back down.
"Down the stretch, I think both teams played great offense,"
Nowitzki said. "There weren't a lot of stops going on.
Everybody was going back and forth. It was a great playoff game
to be a part of."
"Great game both ways," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
have to play better basketball to beat these guys."
Nowitzki had 27 points and 15 rebounds to help fourth-seeded
Dallas survive a huge game by Tim Duncan
, who had 35 points and
12 boards before fouling out on the game's key play.
Top-seeded San Antonio held a 99-98 lead before the 7-foot
Nowitzki powered past Tony Parker
to the basket. Duncan jumped
out to defend, and Nowitzki stepped on Duncan's foot, twisting
his right ankle.
"He didn't touch me and I didn't touch him," Duncan said. "He
tried to draw contact, I moved out of his way and if he stepped
on my foot, he stepped on my foot, but there was zero contact."
Duncan fouled out, and Nowitzki - after a timeout - sank both
free throws for a 100-99 edge with 1:05 to go. Nowitzki was
21-of-24 from the line.
With Duncan gone, the Spurs went to Manu Ginobili
, who scored 10
of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. On consecutive
possessions, he drove for layups, giving San Antonio a 103-102
lead with 21 seconds to play.
"I was having a pretty good game and was making shots and layups
that I usually make," said Ginobilli, who made 7-of-16 shots.
"When Tim went out, I think the next option was either Tony or
me. Pop trusted me and I just tried to get something done,
either drawing fouls or getting to the basket."
"Manu, down the stretch, I thought he did really well," Duncan
said. "He got into rhythm and started attacking the basket."
In between Ginobili's hoops, Nowitzki was triple-teamed and
found Jerry Stackhouse
for a layup. When Stackhouse missed a
jumper, Nowitzki grabbed the rebound, drew a foul and drained
both shots for a 104-103 lead with 7.9 seconds left.
"I saw Parker on me and I took him one way and wanted to spin in
the lane and kind of turn and finish in the lane," Nowitzki
said. "I saw like three guys charging over to my side and it
was a tough pass over to Stack. The spacing wasn't great but he
made a heck of a finish in there."
The Spurs again tried to get the ball to Ginobili, but Devin Harris
stuck in his hand to break up a dribble handoff from
and the ball bounced off Ginobili, into the
backcourt and out of bounds with 2.5 seconds to play, sending
the American Airlines Center into a frenzy.
"I saw him coming off," Harris said. "Handing off, he was kind
of high. I was able to get a hand on it and kind of knock it
away. I did my best without fouling him. I got a little piece
of it and it was enough."
San Antonio had one last chance after Stackhouse missed two free
throws, but a long pass was deflected and tracked down by
Horry, whose desperation shot was not close. The Spurs had made
their previous 10 shots.
It was a watershed win for the Mavericks, who host Game 4 on
Monday with a chance to take control of a series that has lived
up to its hype. The Spurs won the first of their three titles
in 1999, Nowitzki's rookie season. This marks the first time in
three series that Dallas has a lead on San Antonio.
After the game, Nowitzki was limping pretty badly and had
trouble getting down the one step from the podium in the
"It stiffened up pretty good," he said. "I rolled it pretty
nicely. I rolled it once I planted. That's usually where you
have all of your weight on your leg. I'm probably going to stay
up all night and ice it and ice it some (Sunday)."
Harris scored a career-high 24 points as his quickness again was
a factor. Jason Terry
added 19 points and Josh Howard
the Mavericks, who appear to be the faster and deeper team but
squandered a 13-point lead.
Parker scored 15 points for the Spurs, who again got off to a
slow start despite some changes but used their trademark
patience and experience to climb back into the contest.
The Mavericks made 39-of-50 free throws while the Spurs sank
"It was incredibly frustrating because of the type of fouls that
were called down the stretch," Duncan said. "They weren't
Duncan, who had just two 30-point games during the season, has
two in this series. He was unstoppable, particularly in the
fourth quarter, when he overwhelmed Erick Dampier
double-teams with smart passes.
However, he picked up his fifth foul with 4:22 to go, and
Nowitzki's two free throws gave Dallas a 91-90 lead. Duncan
answered with a three-point play.
A 3-pointer by Brent Barry
gave San Antonio a 98-95 lead with
3:08 remaining. Howard made a free throw and Harris made two to
tie it for the last time at the 2:25 mark.
Popovich made some big changes, starting Barry for Ginobili and
moving Bruce Bowen
from Nowitzki onto Howard, who had a big Game
Two. When Horry picked up his second foul trying to stay with
Nowitzki, he was replaced by rugged Argentine rookie Fabricio Oberto
None of it mattered much as the Mavericks marched to the line 13
times, making 11 and opening a 27-18 lead after one period.
Meanwhile, the Spurs made just 6-of-24 shots.
"We were getting out in transition once again and we did run
enough to get early offense and get things rolling early," Terry
Just as they did in Game 2, the Spurs sputtered in the second
period with Duncan on the bench, falling behind, 43-32, on yet
another free throw by Nowitzki. However, they closed the
quarter with an 8-0 burst to cut the halftime deficit to 53-48.
It was more of the same in the third quarter. A three-point
play by DeSagana Diop
gave Dallas a 64-53 lead before San
Antonio closed to 73-69 at the end of the period.