San Antonio Spurs

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mavericks Outlast and Dethrone Spurs

Dirk Nowitzki put his head down and went hard to the basket, driving the Dallas Mavericks past the resilient San Antonio Spurs and into the Western Conference finals.

Nowitzki's season-saving three-point play forced overtime, where the Mavericks finally found a solution for Tim Duncan and surged to a 119-111 victory over the Spurs in a fitting Game 7 of a fantastic conference semifinal series. Now 4-0 in Game 7s, Nowitzki had 37 points and 15 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Mavericks, who ended the championship reign of the top-seeded Spurs and reached the conference finals for the third time in franchise history. They host the second-seeded Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

"We believed it was our time to win this," Nowitzki said.

Dallas narrowly avoided the specter of a catastrophic collapse. After squandering a 3-1 series lead, the Mavericks blew a 20-point second-quarter lead and were one miss away from yet another setback to their Texas-sized nemesis.

Instead, the Mavericks became the 18th team to win Game 7 on the road as they showed the mental toughness that has made the Spurs champions. They denied San Antonio the chance to become the ninth team - and second during this postseason - to overcome a 3-1 deficit.

"They did a great job," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team has yet to reach the conference finals in defending its three NBA titles. "They obviously deserve to move on. It's a disappointing loss for us. It's impressive what Dallas has done. I wish them the best."

"Now we haven't won the championship, but how about those Mavs," beamed Spurs coach Avery Johnson.

Wilting under the demands of defending Duncan - who had a playoff career-high 41 points, 15 rebounds and six assists - the Mavericks faced their first deficit at a terrible time.

Duncan passed out of a double-team to Manu Ginobili, whose 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 104-101 lead with 32 seconds remaining in regulation and brought a roar from the crowd at the AT&T Center, who sensed the completion of a historic comeback.

Nowitzki had other ideas. Instead of settling for one of his patented jumpers - as he did at the end of Game 6 - the 7-footer overpowered a smaller defender on his way to the basket and dropped in a layup while drawing a hard foul from Ginobili. His free throw tied it with 21 seconds to go.

"We had a similar situation in Game 6," Nowitzki said. "We didn't have a lot of time left, I forced a three and the game was over. This time, I had a clear shot to the basket and a lot of time left. I don't know how the ball went in. Manu hit my hand. It was a lucky bounce."

Ginobili and Duncan missed in the final seconds of regulation, and the Spurs never led again. In overtime, they repeatedly went to Duncan, who had put practically the entire Mavericks' roster in foul trouble but could not solve backup center DeSagana Diop.

Duncan made 12-of-24 shots and 17-of-23 free throws, fouling out Erick Dampier and Keith Van Horn in the process. But in overtime against Diop - an inexperienced fourth-year center- he was just 1-of-7, perhaps giving into the fatigue of carrying his team.

"We put ourselves in position to win the game," Duncan said. "We fought all the way back in overtime and we didn't have much left in the tank."

Diop even gave the Mavericks the lead for good at 108-106 on a dunk with 3:32 to play. He "pulled the chair" and got Duncan to travel before Jerry Stackhouse made a jumper.

Ginobili and Jason Terry traded a pair of free throws before Diop contested a lane jumper by Duncan and Stackhouse made a tough pull-up from the baseline for a 114-108 lead at the 1:48 mark.

"We just didn't play as sharp in the overtime as we did during when we were making our comeback," Ginobili said. "They hit a couple of great shots down the stretch."

Duncan made a driving hook but could not get another one to drop with 50 seconds to go. Diop sealed matters by rebounding a miss by Terry and splitting a pair from the line for a 115-110 lead with 22 seconds remaining.

"Tim missed some shots that he usually makes at the end of games and I was trying to make him work hard on the offensive end," said Diop, who had started the first six games of the series. "We'll take the shots he missed and be happy with it."

Terry returned from a one-game suspension to score 27 points. Josh Howard added 18 before fouling out and Stackhouse contributed 13 for the Mavericks, who cooled after a blistering start but still shot 52 percent (42-of-81).

"Basketball is a game of mistakes and I made a big one (in getting suspended) the other night," Terry said. "But we showed a lot of character. We didn't let our heads hang down wondering about what could have been."

Tony Parker scored 24 points and Ginobili added 23 for the Spurs, who shot 47 percent (36-of-76) and stayed in the game by making 33-of-39 free throws.

It was the ninth overtime game of the 2006 postseason, setting a record with two full rounds remaining. This series featured two OT games and four others decided by a combined nine points. Fingered as a flaw in the playoff seeding system, the matchup instead became an unforgettable classic.

"This has been an amazing series," Nowitzki said. "Every game but Game 2 was a battle. A couple of plays here and there and the games go either way. This was a special series."

"This is the best series I've ever played (in)," Duncan said. "Both teams gave their all. It went down to the wire, it was about the ball and whether the ball bounced one way or another and the result is just how it bounced."

Game 7 did not start in memorable fashion. Instead of staring down the Spurs, the Mavericks fixed their gaze on the rim, shooting nearly 70 percent (25-of-36) and opening a 64-50 halftime lead as Terry scored 17 points.

In the third quarter, Duncan rallied the Spurs with 13 points, including a three-point play that cut the deficit to 74-70 with 4:26 to go.

"He's unbelievable and unguardable," Nowitzki said. "He was amazing all series. We could never find an answer for him."

Two free throws and a jumper by Nowitzki rebuilt the lead to 93-84 with 8:30 left, but Ginobili scored nine straight points for the Spurs, shaving the margin to 96-93 with 4:11 to go.

Nowitzki moved onto Duncan but was helpless. Duncan made a follow shot and a spinning layup before finding former Maverick Michael Finley for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio within 101-100 with 1:43 to go.

"I would hope that if we had won three championships and that we were playing an up and coming team, I would hope that we would do the same thing," Johnson said. "But we are still a young team."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spurs best in the West

Victory over Mavericks moves San Antonio into first; Popovich gets 500th win.

Michael Finley scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter against his former team, and the host San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks, 98-89, last night in a matchup of the top teams in the Western Conference.

With the victory, the Spurs leapfrogged over the Mavericks to the top spot in the West. The teams have identical 45-12 records, but San Antonio holds a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head play.

The win was also the 500th for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who took over the team during the 1996-97 season.

San Antonio led by four after three quarters but extended that lead by shooting 11-for-19 in the fourth.

Dallas narrowed its deficit to 94-89 with 46 seconds to play when Dirk Nowitzki was fouled behind the three-point line and made all three free throws.

The Mavericks then started intentionally fouling the Spurs, who made most of the subsequent free throws to maintain their lead.

Jason Terry and Nowitzki each had 23 for the Mavericks, who had won six straight. Josh Howard added 15.

Manu Ginobili made a runner off the opening tip, but the Mavericks scored the next eight points and their defense did a good job denying close-in shots to the Spurs.

A jumper by Keith Van Horn extended the Dallas lead to 22-11 late in the first, but the Spurs cut it to 30-29 with about four minutes left in the half when an emboldened Parker squeezed a layup past Nowitzki's outstretched arm.

The Mavericks hit the next three baskets to make it 36-31 before Parker made a floater and then a fast-break layup to pull San Antonio within a point with 1:14 remaining.

Dallas went up 46-40 early in the third on a follow by Nowitzki, but the Spurs took the lead with a 13-3 run capped by a breakaway dunk and a runner by Nazr Mohammed.

Nowitzki put the Mavericks back ahead with a three-point play and two free throws. San Antonio answered with three-pointer and two foul shots by Parker to go up 68-64 after three quarters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks November 15

The San Antonio Spurs never got rattled, even when they fell behind by 13 points after the first quarter.

Tim Duncan had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead San Antonio to a 103-79 victory over the winless Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.

"The team kept their composure well when we were down," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They didn't try to come back quickly 1-on-1. They did it as a team."

Duncan bounced back from a sluggish performance in a loss to Washington on Saturday, when he shot 3-for-18 from the field and scored only 11 points.

Manu Ginobili had 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the Spurs, who have beaten the Hawks eight straight times at home and 11 of 12 overall. Tony Parker finished with 18 points.

"The first quarter was really bad for us tonight," Ginobili said. "We played better and more aggressively as the game went on."

Al Harrington led the Hawks with a season-high 23 points and nine rebounds. He scored Atlanta's first 14 points and shot 10-for-15 in the first quarter to help the Hawks build a 31-18 lead. The Spurs struggled to find the basket and turned the ball over five times in the first.

Harrington struggled in the second and San Antonio rallied to tie the score 52-all at halftime. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined to score 30 points, and Harrington missed both of his shots in the quarter.

"I heard Pop say he was tired of that guy getting off, and it was really tough to get anything 1-on-1 after that," Harrington said. "They made some good adjustments and really took me out of my game."

Parker and Bruce Bowen combined to limit Atlanta guard Joe Johnson to 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, far below his 19.5 average.

"That's why they're the champs," Johnson said. "They fought hard. Pop made some adjustments that really slowed us down, and we never got back in rhythm."

The Hawks, who lost to Memphis on a last-second putback Saturday, dropped their seventh straight. Yet coach Mike Woodson believes the team's first victory is close at hand.

"Sometimes it's like we are our own worst enemy," he said. "We have stretches where we don't shoot. We don't defend," he said. "When San Antonio turned up their defense, we needed to turn up ours. If we play the way I know we can play for 48 minutes, then we can compete."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spurs and Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) -- San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich wanted a timeout, but Tony Parker saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

So he headed toward the basket, broke the tie and led the Spurs to a 104-95 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Parker scored eight of his 22 in overtime, and Tim Duncan finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds.

"Pop always tells me everytime he calls a timeout I've got the freedom to do that," Parker said. "He said, 'Anytime you want to go all the way to the basket, just do it.' And tonight, it was just a great opportunity to make it happen, and it worked out for me."

Parker was 6-of-14 from the field and 10-of-12 from the foul line and finished with nine assists as the Spurs rebounded from a 103-84 loss at Dallas on Saturday.

Duncan also blocked six shots -- giving him 1,505 rejections for his career. Nazr Mohammed added 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting, and Manu Ginobili scored 14.

Tied at 91 after regulation, the Spurs outscored Chicago 13-4 in overtime.

Parker hit two free throws 30 seconds into the extra period. Luol Deng tied it for Chicago, but Parker's drive put the Spurs ahead for good, 95-93, with 3:45 remaining.

Michael Finley hit a three from the corner to make it 98-93 with 3:18 left in overtime. After a layup by the Bulls' Mike Sweetney, Parker drove again to boost the lead back up to five with 2:06 remaining. Duncan added a jumper in the final minute, and Parker hit two free throws with 31.5 seconds left.

Popovich called more pick-and-rolls for Parker in overtime, and he responded.

"I thought our guards did a good job [on Parker], but it's not just one person; it's their whole team," Deng said. "You try to help, but they have shooters. That team has so many weapons, and they just keep coming at us from the bench. Everybody knows their role, but Tony -- he's quick."

Deng led the Bulls with 19 points, and Ben Gordon finished with 14 after missing six of his first seven shots. Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago, which lost its second straight game.

"We did a lot of good things," Gordon said. "It's just a pity we couldn't finish it up."

After trailing most of the game, the Bulls tied it at 77 on Deng's basket just over four minutes into the fourth quarter. He gave the Bulls their first lead since the opening minutes -- 87-85 -- when he hit two free throws with 2:49 left after Robert Horry committed his sixth foul.

Duncan tied it with two free throws, and Mohammed picked up a loose ball underneath and scored to give the Spurs an 89-87 lead with 1:34 left.

After another basket by Deng, Parker hit two free throws to put the Spurs ahead 91-89 with 1:03 left in regulation.

Parker missed a runner along the right baseline, and Chandler grabbed the rebound and called time with 24.2 remaining. A driving Kirk Hinrich threw up a wild shot, but the ball caromed out of bounds off a Spur.

Gordon struck again.

This time, he came off a double screen from Deng and Chandler, lost Parker, caught the inbounds and made an 18-footer from the right wing to tie it at 91 with 16.2 seconds left in regulation.

"I got two good screens, got open and knocked it down," Gordon said.

After a timeout, Ginobili caught the inbound and let about 10 seconds tick away before driving right. He missed, the game went to overtime, and the Spurs shut down the Bulls in overtime.

"We showed some good composure," Duncan said. "Nobody panicked. Nobody forced shots. We took every possession and tried to get a good shot ... and defensively, we were contesting shots very well."

Game notes
Spurs guard Brent Barry headed to the locker room with lower back spasms midway through the second quarter and did not return. ... Horry committed a flagrant foul early in the second quarter after delivering a forearm to the head of Chicago's Andres Nocioni while running upcourt. ... Bulls forward Tim Thomas, who missed most of the preseason with foot problems after being acquired from New York in the Eddy Curry trade, did not play. He played eight minutes against New Jersey on Saturday and scored six points in 16 minutes in the season-opener against Charlotte. ... San Antonio has won nine straight and 13 of 14 against the Bulls.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Spurs and Cavs

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Bruce Bowen's main job was hounding LeBron James on defense. He also threw in a shooting lesson for the Cleveland Cavaliers' star.

Bowen made all three of his 3-point attempts while leading a San Antonio defense that held James to 10 points over the final three quarters of the Spurs' 102-76 victory on Friday night.

"Night in and night out I look forward to playing the other team's top player," said Bowen, who finished with 12 points. "You have to pay attention to every detail when you are defending [James]. ... He's going to get his shot. You just have to contest it."

James, who scored 31 points in the Cavs' opening-game win over New Orleans, finished with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. He went 0-for-3 on 3-pointers after making six against the Hornets.

"I was able to attack at times, draw the defense in and kick it out -- sometimes we made the shots, sometimes we didn't," James said. "We try to do the exact same things they try to do, only they do it about five times better right now."

Up five points at halftime, the Spurs (2-0) broke the game open in the third quarter at both ends of the floor.

Bowen hit two 3-pointers and Tim Duncan (21 points, 10 rebounds) added four quick baskets as San Antonio went on an 18-7 run to start the quarter.

At the defensive end, the Spurs limited Cleveland to four baskets in the period while extending their lead to as many as 21 points. After a 3-pointer by Larry Hughes and a jumper by James, the Cavs missed 13 of their next 14 shots, most in the paint.

"They let you stick around a little, think you can run with them, then they kick it up another notch," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, a former Spurs assistant.

San Antonio shot 13-for-21 in the decisive quarter, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. The Spurs went 10-for-17 from 3-point range, and they outscored the Cavaliers 62-32 in the paint.

Cleveland (1-1) scored only 31 points in the second half on 10-for-43 shooting.

"First half, we kind of played terrible defense, gave them wide-open shots," said Tony Parker, who had 18 points and eight assists for the Spurs. "The second half, we matched their energy. Every time they tried to penetrate, everyone was in good position."

Drew Gooden scored 14 points for Cleveland and Hughes added 11. Donyell Marshall had 10 rebounds.

San Antonio got two baskets each from Rasho Nesterovic and Bowen in taking an 11-2 lead, but the Cavs battled back to go ahead 19-17 on a jumper by Hughes.

Cleveland maintained a small advantage through most of the second despite James making only one basket in the quarter. His two points matched the number of times he was called for traveling in the period.

A 3-pointer by Manu Ginobili with 3:36 remaining in the half gave San Antonio a 42-41 lead, and he followed with a short fadeaway jumper. Parker added two layups and Duncan a tip-in to build the Spurs' lead to 50-43 in the final minute.

Notes: The Spurs have beaten Cleveland 16 straight times at home. The last time San Antonio lost a regular-season home game to the Cavs was in December 1988. ... Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry, assistant GM Lance Blanks and reserve guard Mike Wilks, all with the Spurs last season, received their 2005 championship rings before the tipoff. ... Duncan had one block, leaving him seven short of 1,500 for his career. ... After scoring 11 key points in the final quarter of San Antonio's opening-night win, Michael Finley went 1-for-6.