2:30 PM ET, April 15, 2007
American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
DALLAS -- Losing a tense, physical, emotional game to their top rival and being forced to settle for the third seed in the Western Conference was bad enough for Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
Tim Duncan got ejected from Sunday's game with two technicals, but he has not had the statistical edge in the four games this season against Dirk Nowitzki.
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Even worse: Duncan is convinced official Joey Crawford is out to get him, with a brawl possibly needed to settle things.
Crawford hit Duncan with two technical fouls just 1:16 apart late in the third quarter of San Antonio's 91-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. The second came while he was laughing on the bench and meant an automatic ejection, just the second of his nine-year career.
"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?"' Duncan said. "If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?"'
The Spurs sorely missed their top player down the stretch, failing to score a basket over the last 6:32 while allowing a 9-0 run to end the game. The loss ended their hopes of catching Phoenix for the No. 2 seed and home-court advantage if they meet in the second round.
While this was a thrilling game between Western Conference powers, the story of the day turned out to be Duncan vs. Crawford.
"He came into the game with a personal vendetta against me," said Duncan, who had 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks in his limited action. "It had to be because I didn't do anything the entire game. I said three words to him and the three words were, 'I got fouled' on a shot. ... That's all I said to him the entire game."
Crawford disagreed, saying that "he was complaining the whole game."
The Mavericks prevailed over the Spurs in a battle of NBA heavyweights. They entered Sunday's contest with a combined 123 wins this season (Dallas 65, San Antonio 58). There were only four other regular-season games in NBA history in which the opposing teams had combined for at least that many victories: the Lakers vs. Milwaukee on March 17, 1972 (124); Boston vs. Philadelphia on March 29, 1981 (123); Miami vs. Chicago on April 16, 1997 (128); and Chicago vs. New York on April 19, 1997 (125).
• Read more Elias Says.
"And then he went over to the bench and he was over there doing the same stuff behind our back," Crawford said. "I hit him with one (technical) and he kept going over there, and I look over there and he's still complaining. So I threw him out."
Crawford spoke to a pool reporter before Duncan spoke to the media. Asked about Duncan not thinking he deserved to be tossed, Crawford said: "That's his opinion. He said nothing when he was walking off the court and he called me a piece of (expletive). Is that nothing?"
San Antonio had won six straight and was on a 12-1 roll. The only loss came against Indiana -- another game that Crawford worked and another game that he rang up a T on Duncan.
"I kind of imagine it stemmed from that," Duncan said. "I don't have a problem with Joey. Obviously he's got a problem with me."
Teammate Bruce Bowen, who also got a technical from Crawford in the third quarter, couldn't believe his superstar teammate was tossed, especially for something so mild.
"Do I think it was deserved? No," Bowen said. "For a former MVP of the league, a guy that doesn't curse out the officials like I hear some of the other guys cursing out the officials, I think it was unfortunate that he was dealt this blow."
Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "My beliefs will be shared privately, not with (reporters)."
Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris each scored 21 points in a game the Mavericks may have used as their dress rehearsal for the playoffs. They won for the 66th time this season, tying the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for ninth-best in league history. They also sealed their home record at 36-5, tying the best in franchise history.
Because the only intrigue left to the season is who Dallas will face in the first round and when, coach Avery Johnson rested various top players over the past five games. Not this time, even though he said before the game that he'd be watching players' minutes. Fans realized Dallas was going all out when Nowitzki returned from a long rest early in the fourth quarter, cheering loudly.
Part of the motivation was that the Mavericks wanted to bounce back from a lackluster home loss to Utah.
"We didn't want to lose two in a row at home so we went for it," Nowitzki said. "We kept on fighting to win the game."
His jumper off a rebound tied the game at 86 with 1:15 left. On San Antonio's next series, Manu Ginobili drove past Greg Buckner but Josh Howard was there to strip the ball. Buckner took it all the way for a layup and the lead with 50 seconds to go.
Bowen missed a jumper from the left side on the Spurs' next trip and Jerry Stackhouse made one of two free throws. With San Antonio down by 3, long-distance ace Brent Barry got the ball but had to put up a long, wild heave. Harris made a pair of free throws to cap the last possible meeting between the teams until the Western Conference finals.
The Mavericks knew they dodged a break by avoiding Duncan the last 13-plus minutes.
"It was a big momentum shift," Dallas' Jason Terry said of the ejection. "They needed him down the stretch. They needed him to go to."
Dallas won the season series 3-1, taking the last three. This was the first game won by the home team.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points. Ginobili scored 16, but the Spurs scored their fewest points since March 17. They had scored at least 109 the previous four games.
Howard had 15 points and six rebounds. Stackhouse, playing only for the second time in five games, scored 14.
Dallas center Erick Dampier missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury. ... San Antonio has 58 wins with two games left. The Spurs are trying to reach 60 for the fourth time and third in five years. ... Dallas finished the regular season with 234 consecutive sellouts. They drew a crowd of 20,444, some of whom were returning hours later for an NHL playoff game between the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-78 (.436)||34-77 (.442)|
|3PM-3PA||2-13 (.154)||3-11 (.273)|
|FTM-FTA||16-18 (.889)||20-27 (.741)|
|Fast Break Points||17||21|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (3/0)||22 (1/0)|