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Mavs hang tough, but Spurs finish strong

5/28/2003

DALLAS (AP) -- A combination of small ball, guts and resiliency
weren't enough to defeat the San Antonio Spurs. Almost, but not
quite.

Tony Parker had another impressive offensive performance, Manu Ginobili was stunning at both ends of the court and Tim Duncan
recovered from a slow start to lead the Spurs to a 102-95 victory
over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

San Antonio took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with
Game 5 set for Tuesday night.

The Mavericks kept the game interesting and close throughout.
But in the end, the absence of Dirk Nowitzki due to a sprained knee
ligament was too much to overcome.

"We knew they were going to use the circumstances to give them
energy, and they made a valiant effort tonight -- which is what we
expected,'' San Antonio's Bruce Bowen said.

Parker scored 25 points, Ginobili had a career playoff-high 21
and Duncan -- who had only eight points at halftime -- added 21
points, 20 rebounds and seven assists for the Spurs, who overcame
an emotional crowd and a desperate effort from the Mavericks.

Michael Finley and Steve Nash scored 25 apiece and Nick Van Exel
added 22 for the Mavericks, whose two comeback attempts in the
fourth quarter both fell short.

San Antonio is now one victory away from advancing to the NBA
Finals to play the New Jersey Nets beginning June 4.

"New Jersey finished Detroit and is getting some rest, so we
need some rest, too. We've got some old guys on this team,'' Parker
said.

With Nowitzki and two other centers injured, the Mavericks had
no choice but to go with a small lineup and try to beat San Antonio
the same way Phoenix did twice in the first round -- collapsing on
Duncan on defense, and using dribble penetration plays and 3-point
shooting on offense.

It worked for a while, but not for 48 minutes.

But if the Spurs' duo of foreign-born youngsters -- Parker and
Ginobili -- hadn't carried the offense for long stretches, it might
have produced a very unlikely upset.

"I thought we had a shot,'' Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "I
thought we were going to find a way to win, but evidently we got
their attention with that first game in San Antonio.''

After San Antonio went ahead 89-80 with a 7-0 run, Dallas came
back and pulled within two on a 3-pointer by Raef LaFrentz with
3:12 left. Malik Rose answered with a dunk, and LaFrentz airballed
3-pointer on his final shot attempt of the night. He fouled out
less than a minute later.

Duncan hit one of two shots from the line, Ginobili stole the
ball from Walt Williams and Rose scored inside with 2 seconds left
on the shot clock for a 96-89 lead with 1:40 left.

Two misses by Van Exel were followed by an offensive foul on
Duncan, sending the game into the final minute with San Antonio
holding a 96-89 lead.

The Mavs got no closer than five the rest of the way.

"We had a little deeper rotation and wore them down,'' Rose
said. "They played hard and did all they could. They've got heart,
but in the end we wore them down.''

Nelson added Van Exel and Williams to the starting lineup in
place of Nowitzki and Raja Bell, and assigned Finley the task of
defending the speedy Parker.

The Mavericks attempted 31 3-pointers and made 12, going only
3-for-11 in the second half.

From the looks of things in the first couple of minutes, it
appeared the Mavs might break the record for 3-point attempts.
Their first two baskets were 3s by Nash and Van Exel, and Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout in frustration just 1:08 in.

But when the Spurs came back and displayed poor shot selection,
Popovich substituted Speedy Claxton, Rose and Ginobili before the
game was even 3 minutes old.

Finley hit a jumper at the first-quarter buzzer to give Dallas a
24-21 lead, then scored Dallas' first five points of the second
quarter. Ginobili kept the Spurs close in the second quarter,
scoring 12 points -- including a vicious reverse dunk that even had
the Dallas fans gasping.

"I came out knowing I had to do more. I had to take a couple
more shots and get to the basket. When I made my first couple of
shots, my confidence grew,'' Ginobili said.

The Mavericks led 52-47 at intermission, and they continued to
play from ahead in the third with the same strategy -- driving and
kicking or driving and hitting a short pull-up jumper on offense;
double- and triple-teaming Duncan on defense.

It worked for a majority of the quarter, but a steal by Stephen Jackson changed things. After swiping the ball from LaFrentz,
Jackson dribbled out to the 3-point line, saw that no one was
coming to defend him and calmly drained the 3.

Parker followed with a floater and a jumper to put San Antonio
ahead for good, 67-66, and Ginobili came flying across the lane to
tip in a missed shot with 0.7 seconds left to extend the run to
22-6 and give San Antonio a 77-70 lead entering the fourth.

Jackson had the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to up
the Spurs' lead to 81-70, making things look extra bleak for the
home team. But the Mavericks weren't finished, as Nash scored seven
of the next nine Dallas points to cut the deficit to 82-80 with
8:31 left.

Game notes
The start of the game was delayed by about 30 minutes after
the arena was evacuated because of a small grease fire in a
kitchen. ... Nowitzki, Shawn Bradley and Evan Eschmeyer watched
from the bench in street clothes. ... Bell picked up a technical in
the first half for swinging his elbow at Parker's face. ...
Ginobili tied his career playoff-high of 17 by halftime. ... Hall
of Famer Bill Russell attended the game and received a standing
ovation when he was shown on the main videoboard.