But Duncan, after resting for several minutes, returned to the
game, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter as the Spurs
defeated the Mavericks 90-85 Sunday afternoon in the opening game of
their Western Conference playoffs series.
San Antonio used a 15-0 push to erase a 10-point fourth-quarter
deficit and gained its 10th straight win against Dallas.
The Mavs missed 12 straight shots down the stretch, scoring just
four points — two on free throws — during the final 7:45.
"They missed some easy shots; we played some good defense," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said.
Duncan finished with 27 points. He left the game with 3:24 remaining
in the third quarter after a knee-to-knee collision with Dallas
guard Monta Ellis. The Spurs trailed by two at the time.
For Duncan, it was the left knee, the one that was surgically
repaired in 2000.
Even so, Duncan said he knew the issue with his knee was not
"My leg just kind of went numb," Duncan said. "I knew I needed a
couple of minutes for the feeling to come back."
He returned with 9:26 left in the game. The 6-foot-11 Duncan found
room to maneuver around the basket because Dallas was concerned with
guarding the 3-point line. The Spurs had made 42 3-point baskets
while sweeping four games from the Mavs during the regular season.
On Sunday the Spurs hit just three of 17 3-pointers.
"We got killed on threes the first four outings this year," Dallas
forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "There was no secret that we stayed a
little more home on the 3-point shooters (Sunday). You have to give
Guard Tony Parker contributed 21 points and six assists for San
Antonio. Guard Manu Ginobili scored 17. Forward Kawhi Leonard
produced 11 points and 10 rebounds. Center Tiago Splitter grabbed 11
Reserve guard Devin Harris led Dallas with 19 points. Nowitzki
scored only 11, missing 10 of 14 shots, largely while guarded by
Splitter or Boris Diaw. He went two for six in the fourth quarter.
Nowitzki and his teammates missed several makeable shots.
"We had some uncharacteristic misses right at the rim," Dallas coach
Rick Carlisle said.
Nowitzki acknowledged that some of the shots he missed were not
difficult. But he also said the Spurs are smart defensively.
"What they want to do is take you out of your comfort zone,"
Nowitzki said. "If you like one move, they won't let you get that
[to top of second column]
Dallas led 44-43 at halftime after falling behind by 12 points in
the first quarter.
The Mavericks missed seven of their first eight shots. They were
down 21-9 late in the quarter, but then Harris responded with a
3-pointer, the last basket of the period for either team. That
started a 15-0 Mavericks push, the final 12 of which came in the
Harris started a spurt in which 24 straight Dallas points were
scored by a reserve. He finished the half with 13 points.
Parker led San Antonio with 17 points in the half. All seven of his
baskets were driving shots inside.
Dallas limited Parker to six shots and two baskets in the second
"They played great defense," Parker said.
In the end, it was not enough.
"We gave ourselves a good chance to win this game," Dallas forward
Shawn Marion said. "When you hold a team under 90 points, you're
supposed to win."
NOTES: The San Antonio Spurs began the season as the NBA's sixth
oldest team, with an average age of 28.3 years. The Spurs' so-called
Big Three — Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker — average
nearly 35 years. But coach Gregg Popovich was so careful about
managing playing time that nobody averaged 30 minutes a game, a
first for any team since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. ... Dallas
finished the regular season with a huge disparity in offensive and
defensive efficiency. The Mavericks rank second on offense and 22nd
on defense, according to ESPN. The Spurs had better balance, rating
sixth in offense and fourth on defense. ... Craig Sager Jr. filled
in for his father, Craig, interviewing Popovich after the third
quarter. The elder Sager is receiving treatment for leukemia. ...
San Antonio F/C Aron Baynes, who played in 53 games, starting four,
this season, was inactive Sunday. The Spurs have 14 players for 13
spots. ... Dallas guards Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel were inactive.
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