SAN ANTONIO 119, DALLAS 106 ---------------------------
SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan made sure there wasn't another collapse by the San Antonio Spurs.
Duncan took charge down the stretch and single-handedly stopped another raging rally by the Dallas Mavericks, leading the Spurs to a 119-106 victory that evened the Western Conference finals at one game each.
As they did in Game One, the top-seeded Spurs led virtually the entire game. This time, they held on handily thanks to Duncan, who had 32 points and 15 rebounds as he flashed the form that has made him the two-time NBA MVP.
The third-seeded Mavericks were trying to stage a repeat of their comeback in the opener, when they erased an 18-point deficit and stunned the Spurs with a 113-110 win. They dug themselves a 28-point hole in the first half Wednesday, then shot their way out of it, pulling within 103-94 on a 3-pointer by Michael Finley with 5:40 to go.
"It's tough. We talked about it," Duncan said. "They just came down and made some threes. But we were still up eight. All we were thinking was keep scoring and play some defense."
Duncan answered with a 15-footer. Nick Van Exel converted a driving three-point play to make it an eight-point game, but Duncan scored inside, rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Van Exel and blocked a shot by Dirk Nowitzki, leading to Tony Parker's layup and a 109-97 lead with 3:53 to play.
After Van Exel made a 3-pointer, Duncan coolly passed out of a double-team to rookie Manu Ginobili, whose 3-pointer made it 112-100 with 2:32 left and took the mettle out of the Mavs.
"Duncan was huge," Nowitzki admitted. "Every time we really got close, he picked up a huge rebound or a huge basket that would put them momentum back in their favor."
Malik Rose scored 25 points off the bench and led a procession to the foul line by the Spurs, who sank 37-of-45 free throws compared to 20-of-22 by the Mavs. Rose made 15-of-18 free throws and Duncan 10-of-13.
"I was just trying to make something happen," said Rose, who took a knee to the head from Dallas forward Eduardo Najera in the fourth quarter of the opener. "My energy and hustle added to it tonight."
"He's so huge for us," Duncan said. "When they go small, he can stay out there."
It was a huge turnaround from Game One, when San Antonio made 31-of-48 free throws and Dallas sank 49-of-50.
"We felt we let the game get away from us Monday night," Rose said. "This series easily could have been 2-0, or 0-2. Just a couple of plays made the difference."
The I-35 series shifts 200 miles north to Dallas, which hosts Games Three and Four on Saturday and Monday and needs to regain its composure. Coach Don Nelson and assistant Del Harris were ejected as the Mavs racked up five technical fouls in the first half debating officials instead of defending their basket.
"We lost our composure a little," said Nowitzki, who also was hit with a technical. "In the first half, we complained about every call. We have to just calm down and let our game speak for itself."
"The players on the court should dictate the game, nobody else," said Van Exel, who received a T of his own. "Somebody else took this game from us. Let us play the game. Let the players dictate things.'
Finley scored 29 points and a foul-plagued Nowitzki added 23 for the Mavs, who fired 30 3-pointers, making 12. That was about the only thing working for them.
In the first half, the Spurs nearly ran the Mavs out of the SBC Center. Nelson and Harris opted to walk instead.
With 2:46 left in the first quarter, Nowitzki on the bench with three fouls and the Mavs trailing, 22-16, Nelson came up the sideline to argue with Joey Crawford, who ordered him to return to the bench. When Nelson didn't, Crawford tossed him.
"The manner with which he was ejected was surprising to us," said Mavs assistant Donnie Nelson, the coach's son.
"Everyone knows around the league you don't mess with Joey Crawford," Rose said.
Harris lasted about another quarter, getting thrown out by Crawford for walking onto the court at the 2:16 mark to argue with Dallas down, 64-36.
"Del 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)," Crawford said. "This isn't unusual."
"Nelly probably needed some company back there," Finley said.
Nowitzki picked up three fouls in the first seven-plus minutes and took a seat. The Spurs took full advantage as Duncan and Rose took control of the interior on both ends and helped build a 33-16 lead.
Rose fueled a 20-5 run that opened the second period and gave San Antonio a 55-29 lead with just under seven minutes to go. By that time, Nowitzki was back, but there was very little he could do to slow down the Spurs.
"They came out way more aggressive than we did and that's why they got the calls," Nowitzki said.
After Harris was thrown out, Dallas used an 8-0 spurt to make it a 20-point game. But a jumper and 3-pointer by Tony Parker gave San Antonio a 69-44 lead and a team playoff record for points in a half.
In the first half, Duncan and Rose combined for 39 points - 21 from the line - as they pushed around the Mavs. The Spurs made 26-of-28 free throws and held a 15-0 lead in second-chance points.
"This is an emotional playoff series, and taking the ball hard to the basket has its place," Mavs assistant Donnie Nelson said. "Tonight we didn't get to the free-throw line enough.'
Dallas pulled within 17 points in the third quarter but was derailed by Nowitzki, who picked up two more fouls in a four-minute span. The second led to a three-point play by Rose that made it 87-67 with 3:39 left.
Even with Duncan on the bench with foul trouble early in the fourth quarter, the Spurs maintained a 99-80 lead until a 3-point barrage from Van Exel, Finley and Nowitzki put Duncan back to work.
"You bust your butt, but no matter what we can do, they're going to get open and hit some long-range shots," Popovich said.
Parker scored 19 points and Stephen Jackson added 17 for the Spurs, who shot 48 percent (39-of-81) and held a 51-41 advantage on the glass.
Raef LaFrentz scored 15 points, Van Exel added 13 and Steve Nash 12 for the Mavs, who shot 41 percent (37-of-90).