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Duncan scores 32 points as Spurs even series

5/23/2003

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- First there was foul trouble for Dirk Nowitzki, and then he got hit with a technical foul. Next came
serious foul trouble for Nowitzki, which was followed by the
ejection of Don Nelson.

More technical fouls and ejections quickly followed in a game
that seemed to be all but over by the time the tempestuous first
half ended.

Dallas did manage to make a late push, but Tim Duncan's 32
points and the Spurs' early 24-for-24 free-throw shooting were too
much to overcome Wednesday night as San Antonio defeated the
Mavericks 119-106 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

"We definitely lost our composure, but we knew coming in how it
would be,'' Mavericks guard Nick Van Exel said. "Our focus was to
keep fighting though it and play through it as best we could, but
tonight it just got the best of us.''

The Spurs evened the series with Game 3 set for Friday at
Dallas. Perhaps that will be the night that a low-key officiating
crew is assigned to the game.

Following a Game 1 that featured 72 personal fouls and 98 free
throws, notoriously hot tempered referee Joey Crawford called four
technical fouls in the first 10:11.

Two of the techs came in rapid succession during a timeout when
Nelson tried to engage Crawford in a staredown. Assistant coach Del
Harris was tossed by Crawford late in the second quarter after he
walked onto the court.

"Don (Nelson) walked up to half court. I never told him to sit
down because that's not my job to tell him to sit down. I told him
to go coach his team, and he said 'No, I'm not going to.' So I hit
him with one,'' Crawford told a pool reporter. "I said 'Go coach
your team.' He said 'I'm staying right here.' So, bang, I threw
him.

"Del Harris was different,'' Crawford said. "Del Harris came
to my partner (Ted Bernhardt) at a timeout and said that he was
going to get ejected, and to eject him on one (technical) which
isn't unusual. This has happened in the history of the NBA where a
coach has walked up to a referee and said eject me. So we eject
him.''

The Spurs went to the line 28 times in the first half and made
26, with Malik Rose going 13-for-14 while shooting a majority of
the technicals.

The second half consisted of little more than waiting to see if
any more individual technical fouls would be called -- none were --
and whether the Mavericks could make an improbable comeback with
assistant coach Donn Nelson Jr. running the team.

They got within eight, but no closer.

Rose finished with 25 points, Tony Parker had 19 and Stephen
Jackson 17. San Antonio made 37 of 45 free throws.

"It is tough being in a situation where you're up so much and
are trying to play the clock out, basically,'' Duncan said. "We
talked about trying to win the game instead of sustain the lead.''

Michael Finley led the Mavericks with 29 points and Nowitzki had
23.

Things started going poorly for Dallas midway through the first
quarter -- and they quickly got much worse.

Nowitzki was called for his second foul with 7:39 remaining in
the period for slapping at the ball as Duncan went up for a shot.
Nowitzki turned to Crawford to complain, and Crawford immediately
gave him a technical.

Jackson made the ensuing foul shot to give the Spurs an 11-7
lead, and Nelson took a risk by leaving Nowitzki in the game with
two fouls.

With 4:49 left in the first, Bernhardt whistled Nowitzki for his
third personal -- a questionable call as Nowitzki defended Rose
under the basket. That forced Nelson to remove Nowitzki from the
game, and Nelson was gone himself with 2:46 left in the quarter.

"Nothing that Nellie does surprises me,'' Spurs coach Gregg
Popovich said. "He's clever and creative, but he was real creative
tonight.''

A layup by Duncan with 1:31 left in the first completed a 17-2
run and gave the Spurs a 33-16 lead, and Jackson had a fast-break
layup with 6:53 left in the second quarter to complete an 18-3 run
that gave the Spurs a 55-29 edge.

San Antonio led 69-44 at the break, and Dallas got within 17 in
the third before Nowitzki picked up his fourth and fifth fouls --
the latter of which was a questionable call by Crawford on which
Nowitzki allegedly fouled Rose on a breakaway. It led to a
three-point play that gave the Spurs an 87-67 lead.

A 17-6 run ending with a three-point play by Van Exel made it
105-97 with 4:58 left, but Duncan hit a 15-footer and blocked a
jumper by Nowitzki, leading to a breakaway layup by Parker that
upped the lead to 12 with 3:51 left -- ending the Mavs' final
threat.

"We took tonight on the chin, but in no way, shape or form do
we feel depressed or down,'' Nelson Jr. said. "We'll take this as
a challenge and learn from it and try to get one at home.''

Game notes
Crawford also called a technical foul on Van Exel late in
the first quarter for rolling the ball to him after the Dallas
guard was called for a charging foul. Referee Dick Bavetta broke
Crawford's string of consecutive technical fouls at four when he
called one on Bruce Bowen for pushing Raef LaFrentz after the two
were getting untangled late in the first quarter. Bernhardt
whistled Spurs center Kevin Willis for a technical foul late in the
second quarter. ... Dallas F Eduardo Najera was held out because of
a thigh bruise. ... Shawn Bradley started for Dallas in place of
LaFrentz. ... The team that has won Game 1 in the Western
Conference finals has won the series 16 consecutive times.