Fast Breaks: Mavs-Spurs, Game 5
Caron Butler paced the Mavs scoring, giving Dirk Nowitzki a breather
The Mavs were the more physical team, roughing up the Spurs
The Spurs need to decide if they want Tony Parker back in the starting lineup
Facing elimination, the Mavericks got excellent production from an unlikely source, shooting guard Caron Butler, whose 35 points helped drive them to a 103-81 victory over the Spurs. The Spurs still lead the series 3-2, meaning Dallas needs more games like Tuesday's to avoid a first-round upset.
The Butler did it. After getting benched in the second half of Game 3 because of poor shooting and too many turnovers, Butler carried the Mavericks with a playoff career high for points to go along with 11 rebounds and three steals. Butler was aggressive from the start, taking shots with no hesitation en route to 12 first-quarter points, getting to the rim and setting the tempo for a fast-paced game that allowed the Mavericks to control the game almost from the opening tip. With Butler hitting 12-of-24 shots, Dirk Nowitzki essentially got the game off -- which the Mavericks hope means he can come back with a big outing in Game 6 on Thursday.
The Mavericks were the more physical team. They seemed angry about the hole in which they found themselves. They displayed a nasty attitude. And the Spurs did not punch back. It started with Eduardo Najera throwing a little shoulder into Tony Parker. Then Brendan Haywood got into the act. Then Shawn Marion gave Parker a nudge. And finally Najera took a Flagrant 1 foul -- a game after getting a Flagrant 2 -- for hitting Parker in the face on a drive to the basket. Don't expect to see the Spurs so laisse faire in their own building -- not after Gregg Popovich gets done showing them the game tape.
Jason Kidd looked like he was still in high school. The 37-year-old point guard looked like the Kidd of old, with seemingly young, fresh legs enabling him to push the ball up the court on nearly every Dallas possession. It helped that San Antonio shot only 36 percent for the game, giving the Mavericks lots of opportunities to get out and run. But even after 15 years in the league, Kidd looked like the fastest player on the court. He had 10 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes, commanding most of the game.
Dallas changed its starting lineup. After Erick Dampier picked up five fouls in 19 minutes in Game 4 and got banged with a $35,000 fine for complaining about the officiating, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle removed Dampier as a starter and inserted Haywood, who came from Washington in the same trade as Butler. Haywood was not overwhelming -- he had eight points, eight rebounds and just two fouls in 30 minutes -- but he did control the paint, for the most part, and gave Dallas an interior presence that Dampier does not always provide. Haywood's night would have looked far better had he not missed six of 12 free throws.
Is it time to start Tony Parker? This is a difficult decision for Popovich, who has started George Hill at point guard and procured a 3-2 series lead. But Parker was the one player who made a difference for San Antonio, his flurry at the end of the first half responsible for San Antonio trimming Dallas' 17-point lead to seven. When Parker started the second half on the bench, Dallas went on a 10-0 run to take a sizable lead again, which it maintained the rest of the game.
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