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Nowitzki Helps Mavs Win, Loses Tooth
Smile When You Say That, Pardner
DALLAS, May 12 (AP) -- When the buzzer sounded, Dirk Nowitzki walked off the court gently touching his bloodied mouth.

Michael Finley
In addition to 25 points, Michael Finley dished out 10 assists on Saturday.
AP Photos TV highlights:28.8+ | ISDN+
Although his front right tooth was missing, Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks hadn't felt this good in more than a week.

Nowitzki led a team-wide break from a series-long shooting slump, scoring 30 points as the Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-108 Saturday to avoid being swept from the second-round series. Game 5 is Monday night in San Antonio.

Dallas, which had lost the first three games by at least 14 points each, improved to 4-0 in elimination games this postseason. Nowitzki has been the leading scorer in three of them.

This time, the third-year forward from Germany did it three days after needing two IVs to play through food poisoning and despite being elbowed in the mouth by Terry Porter with 4:52 left.

"A lot of things have happened to me lately; I don't know what the deal is," Nowitzki said. "As long as we win a couple of games, I'll be all right."

Nowitzki missed only 33 seconds of game time while getting some gauze to stop the bleeding, then came back and grabbed the first possible rebound. He also went on to score his final four points, including two free throws with 6.1 seconds left, and make a smart defensive play.

"What a gutsy guy," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "Our whole team kind of rallied around that, I think, and everybody played at a high level."

After shooting horribly through three games, the Mavs made nearly half their shots (45-of-93) and their leading men -- Nowitzki, Michael Finley, Juwan Howard and Steve Nash -- all came up big.

The outburst produced the most points in regulation against the Spurs all season and it was 19 more than they had allowed in eight games this postseason.

Finley had 25 points and 10 assists. His two free throws with 1.7 seconds guaranteed the victory, after his missed free throw with 15.7 seconds left kept San Antonio's hopes alive.

Michael Finley
Michael Finley drops in the clutch jumper:
995k avi | QuickTime
Howard had 17 points and eight rebounds. Three of his baskets came during a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter that put Dallas ahead for good.

Nash had 10 points and 14 assists, including six on the team's first eight baskets as the Mavericks finally returned to the up-tempo, jump-shooting style that got it this far and led by 17 in the second quarter.

San Antonio answered with a 19-4 run that made it a two-point game at halftime. The Spurs led by three early in the fourth quarter and kept hitting clutch shots every time Dallas tried putting them away.

"Usually when you get that momentum back and you get the game tied or go ahead, you think you're going to get the game," said David Robinson, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds. "Even into the last few seconds I thought we were going to get the game."

San Antonio closed to 108-107 on a dunk by Antonio Daniels. Then Nowitzki made his two clutch free throws, again leaving San Antonio within a 3-pointer of tying it.

But Nowitzki never let the Spurs get it off. He fouled Tim Duncan with 5.1 seconds left and the poor foul shooter made only the first one.

After his miss was nearly tipped in by Malik Rose, Sean Elliott got the rebound, only to have the ball popped away by Greg Buckner, Dallas' defensive specialist. Finley wound up with it, leading to the game-securing shots.

"It was just a lucky play," Buckner said.

The Spurs might've won if they were better from the foul line. They were 29-of-41, with five misses in the final quarter, while Dallas went 18-of-19.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki finds an opening and slams home the dunk:
992k avi | QuickTime
"I missed eight free throws and we lost by three -- that's the difference right there," said Duncan, who led San Antonio with 29 points and 18 rebounds.

Nowitzki opened the game with a short jumper, then dunked over Robinson, letting the Spurs know immediately that they weren't going to go quietly.

Nowitzki had 16 points at the half. He scored eight in the third quarter despite picking up his fourth foul early in the period.

He lost his tooth while trying to get the ball from Porter. Porter's elbow clipped Nowitzki in the mouth and he immediately ran to the locker room, blood dripping from his lip. The Mavs led 103-97 at the time.

Nowitzki said the tooth had been loosened over the summer. He said he's glad it's gone so he can get a fake one.

"He looks like a hockey player," Howard said. "He's no longer a sex symbol to the ladies like he was before."

The victory prevented the Mavericks from their first four-game losing streak of the season. Having become the sixth team to win a five-game series after losing the first two, they're now trying to become the first team to ever win a seven-game series after losing the first three.

"We're not ready for our summer to start," Finley said. "It's been very evident in the closing games. It just shows you the type of heart we have as a team.

"Hopefully we can keep that going in San Antonio."

Notes: Calvin Booth had 16 points for Dallas after scoring four points through three games. ... Duncan had five assists, all of which he had before he scored his fifth point. ... Derek Anderson was in a suit on the Spurs' bench, his first courtside appearance since separating his right shoulder on a hard hit by Juwan Howard in Game 1. Anderson is expected to be out at least two more weeks. ... Dallas has never been first sweep in five seven-game series. ... The Spurs are 2-2 on the road this postseason after winning 11 of their final 13 road games in the regular season. ... Unless the Mavericks force a Game 6, this was the last game at Reunion Arena. The Spurs also were the opponent in the first game, on Oct. 11, 1980.
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