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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:57 AM ET, 5/16/06

Dallas backcourt was just too good

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
The great bulk of NBA fandom was well aware that this San Antonio/Dallas matchup would probably turn out to be the most entertaining game of this year's postseason, and yet, it feels as if both teams have managed to play beyond expectations. The defense is great, the offense is even better, the stars are bright, the pasta al dente, the scotch aged 12-years, all sorts of slick stuff. Couldn't be happier, and we can only hope for seven games.

That said, the Spurs have their work cut out for them to overcome this 1-3 disadvantage. Going with their smallest starting lineup yet, they were still unable to deny Dallas penetration and keep the Mavs from scoring inside the lane.

Early on they seemed up to the task. With 6:30 left in the first quarter, and the Spurs leading 16-15, San Antonio had held Dallas to just two points in the paint. By the time the overtime contest ended, the Mavs had scored 108 more points, with 50 of those bad boys coming in the paint. This doesn't even count the free throws earned from diving into the lane, or 3-pointers nailed because Mavs guards were able to penetrate and dish. San Antonio was far and away the best defensive team in the NBA this season, but they have a potentially-fatal shortcoming with their inability to stop quick guards from dicing them up.

One thing worth noting is the fact that Erick Dampier has gotten away with pushing Tim Duncan out of the lane all series long. He leans into him while the guards drive, easing him out of defensive position with a bent forearm. Technically, Dampier can do what he's doing, because he's allowed to feign boxing out, or pretend to struggle for position when Duncan "fronts" (in quotation marks, because we know Tim has no interest in fronting Dampier in the post) him in the paint. Still, if the refs decide to change the way they call the play, the Mavs could find dashing toward the rim a little tougher during the next game or three.

This leads into the nasty subtext of the series, the one that suggests the Mavs have only accrued a 3-1 lead because of a series of calls that have gone in their favor. As usual, there were some real bum trips tonight, but Tim Duncan had a potentially game-winning jump hook to hit from eight feet as the final seconds ticked away in regulation, and Spurs fans can't ask for more than that.

It stinks horribly that Manu Ginobili (26 points in 26 minutes) had to foul out with 2:28 left in the game, especially on a dodgy call (Jason Terry leaned into Ginobili while shooting an 18 footer). And yet, it's Manu's stinkin' fault for trying to block a Jason Terry 3-pointer in the first place. If Ginobili closes out properly just seconds before, Terry isn't able to pump fake and drive his way to the free-throw line. Also, I can't recall seeing two delay of game penalties called in one game in years. To have two separate, if understandable, bouts of petulance come from the Spurs (both Ginobili and Brent Barry keeping the ball from the refs after horrible calls) was even more shocking. Bad refs or not, the Spurs should have risen above.

Both teams had that late game edge going all game long. The level of intensity was so high in this game, it was easy to forget that there were three quarters to go, or eight minutes left in the third, or that the game was at the 5:32 mark of the fourth quarter. It was a sublime evening of basketball that was decided by a team that is clearly better than the defending champs, but not superior enough to run away with one-sided wins at home.

That vaunted Dallas backcourt was too, too hot. Devin Harris, Terry and Jerry Stackhouse combined for 76 points on just 54 shots. They played 128 minutes between them and only turned the ball over four times. They kept the pressure on, people on streets, moving and cutting and keeping dribbles alive and penetrating.

Three heady plays by Harris in the last minute of regulation and opening minute of OT put the Mavs at ease. Harris, who seems like the coolest cat in the playoffs at this point, managed to swipe a loose ball and dish to an open Jason Terry, almost simultaneously, with 23 seconds left in the first session. His pass gave Terry the chance to splash the game-tying jumper. In the first minute of overtime, Harris gathered a loose ball off a badly missed 3-pointer and got a quick shot up before the shot clock buzzer went off. The shot missed, but the attention he drew allowed for Dampier to pull in an offensive rebound, and it led to an eventual Jason Terry layup. Seconds after a Tony Parker miss in the next possession, Harris spied a retreating Spurs' defense, took advantage and dashed to the front of the rim for a lay-in. Nothing earth-shattering, it's just nice to see a young guard aware of his surroundings and rising above the chaos to make intelligent plays.

So, we've established that the Mavs have the edge in this series. The superior personnel. The motivation. The rebounding advantage (+11 in offensive boards on the series). They're quicker, taller, and have three games to win one in order to move onto the Western Conference Finals. And that's probably what it will take. In spite of all the matchup issues, the dodgy refs, the frustrating losses, and Nick Van Exel – the champs aren't done.

*Statty note: the starting lineup of Parker, Brent Barry, Mike Finley, Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan was outscored 37 to 34 in 24 minutes and 24 seconds of play. Not great.


Dodgy refs? Spurs 1-3, hmmm, wonder who you and Steve Kerr are pulling for?

Yeah, you are right. All of them, all 12 refs:

Derrick Stafford, Dick Bavetta, Jim Clark
David Jones, Eddie F. Rush, Steve Javie
Bill Spooner, Joe Crawford, Joe Derosa
an Crawford, Greg Willard, Mark Wunderlich

..are secretly pulling for the Mavericks..must be Cuban's secret payoffs...how else could one explain that wopping 15 foul differential over 4 games, despite the lobbying by the whole whinning spurs on...EVERY...SINGLE...CALLL...Tim Duncan's new name should be "Palm's up" or "WHoME?"..No it must be a fix, because there is no way a younger, faster, hungrier team lead by the one coach in the NBA who knows the Spurs better than anyone but Pop could possibly pull this off. Sheeesh...Glad to see you are least mentally sympatico with the team..e.g...when beat, Bitch!

Wankerous, but entertaining commentary. In the immortal words of Tom Hanks..."I want some Whhiiiine!"

Posted: 2:35 AM   by Matthew F. Bodmer
The refs have been poor, but they have been poor for both teams-it is just impossible these days to know what is and is not a foul. EVERY TIME a player looks to be in position to take a charge, they call a block-and when it looks like a block, they call a charge. I'm tired of these old men, who I'm not sure can even see without the use of glasses.

The mavs have played well enough to win the games, and the Spurs looked to have been rooked on some calls....but the difference is that Devin Harris can get to the basket anytime he wants, and the Mavs seem to shoot better from the guard position.
Posted: 2:39 AM   by Chris
C'mon Juan, yeah Kelly talked about the shaky officiating...but he also mentioned a few times that Dallas is CLEARLY the better team. Hmm, wonder who YOU are pulling for...remember, these are the defending champs we're talking about here, at least give them the respect of being capable to come back in this series.
Posted: 2:58 AM   by Anonymous
Amazing. The media notices the bad calls on both teams (Duncan's sixth "foul" on Dirk in game 3, or Parker's airball called as touching the rim in Game 4). The Spurs, though complaining during the game, speak nothing of it after the game to any significant effect, and ol' Juan labels them whiners. Show me a team whose player don't contest calls, and I'll show you some swampland in Arizona, to quote George Strait.

That said...two delay of penalties is completely ridiculous, especially for a Pop coached team. After a healthy dose of butt-chewing, the Spurs should come out and take Game 5 cleanly at home. As for the remainder...we shall see. Avery has proved to be the difference maker in this series, no doubt.
Although I agree that the Mavs have gotten an advantage on calls, I dont think that you can say "we lost because of those calls."
If you lose a game because of a call, then you didnt play the other 48 minutes of the game well enough.
I doubt this will go to 7 games. I think the Spurs have lost alot of spirit and motivaiton, and I think the Mavs feel invincible.
..But that can change in game 5...

Posted: 3:09 AM   by Jax
I think Mark Cuban's comments early in the series created some sort of a 'reverse psychological impact' on the referees. By trying to be fair in the eyes of Cuban, they made calls totally unfair to the Spurs.
Posted: 3:34 AM   by Anonymous
I never realized what a baby Tim Duncan was until now...no Tim you don't get a call every time you touch the ball, well maybe in San Antonio. So please quit crying to the refs when you miss and there is no call.
Posted: 4:55 AM   by Anonymous
Juan. Cry me a river for Pete's sake. The champs are done. Stick a fork in them. It's been a nice ride but look at it this way, at least we will keep the trophy in the state so they can visit it anytime.

Dirk Nowitzki is the new Tim Duncan and this years final MVP, although we can all agree he probably won't have as much effect on the game as say a Josh Howard, Jason Terry, or Devin howard. The Mavs no longer need Dirk to be a Monster every night and that is why they will " WIN IT ALL".

Dallas, TX
Posted: 4:58 AM   by Chris
The Mavs won tonight because they were the better team. Jason Terry was absloutely unstoppable.

But make no mistake, the refereeing was dreadful. Dirk Nowitzki may very well have scored on the Mavs last possession in regulation anyway, but the two free throws were a gift: Bruce Bowen did not foul him. Dick Bavetta's whistle was constantly busy, interrupting the flow of the game. Shame on the referees for detracting from an outstanding Dallas win.
Posted: 6:18 AM   by Brian
The Spurs are cooked, you can stick a fork in them. They will probably win 5 here in San Antonio, but this series is definitely not going past game 6. That said, it is very unfortunate that some of the calls were made, and I agree that Spurs fans should be happy with having a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.....there is a problem with that though. The refs decided the game to some extent. The call and subsequent technical that resulted in 3 points for the Mavericks was absolutely ridiculous, as well as the call where Ginobili fouled out.

There were other calls as well in the game, such as in overtime where there was no call against the Spurs....that one had little effect though, seeing how Stackhouse got the board and the two. The game may not have been completely decided by the referees, but they should definitely be credited with an assist for this one. The worst thing is.....this series deserves a fair shake.

The referees in the end aren't going to matter because the real difference between a championship team and a really good team is the ability to overcome adversity. The Spurs have been right there in the last two games and have failed to close the games out. Everyone has bad calls go against them. The ones tonight may have been game changing, but they have nobody to blame but themselves. They had chances to put the dagger in and end the game. They failed. They aren't as hungry as they have been in the past, and to tell the truth they look tired. They haven't had the energy in these playoffs, and they just look like they need a rest this summer. Let them feel the sting of this loss, and they will come back stronger and hungrier next year.

Plus....it doesn't matter who wins this series, there is a beast in the east just waiting to slay whichever bloodied battered team walks out of the west. Good luck Mavs....you're going to need it against the Pistons.
Posted: 6:55 AM   by Anonymous
Bavetta obviously has a prejudice against the Spurs. It is amazing how classy everyone in the San Antonio organization is about it. When the game is over, they are all quite clear that the other team beat them because they played a better game while still admitting they did not make the plays necessary.

Whining? Try the owner of the Mavs. How many times has he blatantly attacked referees? No wonder Mavs fans point fingers.

It's a shame they are not as classy as Avery.
Posted: 7:29 AM   by Ryan
Spurs...whiny? Yeah just as Manu barely...barely nudged Terry as he was shooting Terry decided whail his arms around like he had actually been hit. Whiny? No. Sticking up for themselves and the integrity of professional basketball? Yes. The Spurs are tough, the refs called a horrible game and that's what it boils down to. Dallas is a great team but if they win it, the refs have seriously undermined their efforts by their "officiating."
Posted: 7:36 AM   by Jeff Rudacille
I agree with Juan as to the original blog. What a whiney commentary on an obviously tilted view of Spurs/Mav's series. No mention of the phantom "rim hit" by Parker that gave the Spurs an extra possesion, no mention of the fact that both teams were given 32 free throws, etc. There were bad calls on both sides of the floor. That did not determine the game. Inability to put away the Mav's is what caused the Spurs to lose. This is one of the biggest steals in Mav's playoff history. They kept in the game but did not derserve the win as it seemed the Spurs could only be stopped by their own turnovers vs. Mav's defense. The original blog souds more like Charles Barkley using a "ghost" name to write out his thoughts. Has any human ever been wrong more often then Charles? He is the Spurs biggest hope in saying that whomever won that game last night would go on to win the series. Charles is almost always wrong on every questionable topic he brings up. Great blog, Charles.
Posted: 7:55 AM   by Anonymous
I was disappointed to see Spurs lose last night however I wonder if they have a Phoenix Suns-like comeback left in them. History says no but didn't history say Spurs have always beaten the Mavs?
Posted: 8:14 AM   by Anonymous
Seems like Payton knew something when he signed with the Heat. It's looking highly doubtful that Finley and Van exel will get those championship rings. I guess that's the price Spurs pay for signing ex-Mavericks. What cruel irony.
I have not seen worst officiating in my life and to have this during the playoff's is absolutely ludicrous. Whatever happen to the officials that actually review every performance of these referees? if this is still done i would love to hear their comments on this - i don't think anyone would be surprised by the professional comments we would hear. Anyway, down but not out and despite the horrible officiating the last two games could have still been won by the Spurs.

Saying this, you can't help but to take your caps off for Dallas, they deserve all the respect in the world. I also think they have finally become of age. CONGRATULATIONS DALLAS!!!
Posted: 8:21 AM   by Anonymous
You gotta be kidding!

Both teams shot 32 free throws last night. Bowen has been Hackin' Dirk on every other possession all series. Duncan gotta a way with an obvious foul on Harris' drive in OT. And we could go on.

NBA games are tough to call, but blaming the refs for San Antonio's loss...

How about this. Dallas has played a great series and beat a tired and older bench in OT last night.

You guys are starting to sound like Cubin.
Trying to figure out what's up with the officiating comments in the Mavs-Spurs contest.

In regard to officiating, the Spurs feature the leagues's Biggest Whiner (Duncan), Flopper (Ginobli) and Hacker (Bowen).

And you want us to feel sorry for them because Damp's giving the Big Fundamental a forearm?


When is someone going to notice that Dallas has a better team?
Posted: 12:43 PM   by Anonymous
Am I the only one who say the arm bar that Bowen put on Nowitzki. Hello, that is illegal. And I believe the Mavericks would be one of the last teams Bavetta gives the benefit of the doubt to. Did we forget Jerry Stackhouse was fined earlier this year for telling everybody how bad a person and offical Bavetta was. You get some calls go your way. It alls evens out through the game.

How about the flop Bowen did on Nowitzki and let's just say Eva isn't the only one who could do some acting in San Antonio: Bowen, Manu, Parker and Duncan could all fill spots in Hollywood. Does Duncan have a seperate rule book that he goes by what is a foul and whats not?
Posted: 2:30 PM   by Anonymous
I have really enjoyed this series. I hope you all remember that although it may be worthy of a finals series...it is not the finals. The Clippers will be no pushover for whomever wins this bad boy. Then the teams in the East are not to bad either. The playoffs are far far from over...this series is far far from over. Buckle up boys...and hang on to your hats...this may be the best playoffs ever.
Posted: 2:48 PM   by Anonymous
I've got to say that the Spurs remind me of the Mavs a couple of years ago -- whining about every call, good or bad, and refusing to recognize that some calls against the other team are questionable too. Those Mavs drove me nuts, and Nelson never put a stop to it. Now do the guys today still question calls? Absolutely, but the Spurs do it on every single call. And I think most neutral commentators have long said that Bowen gets away with a lot when he's playing that "tough" D. There were bad calls both ways last night, but the bottom line is that each team had multiple chances to win the game and only the Mavs did it.
Posted: 5:57 PM   by Anonymous
I'm a Mavs Fan !
But for the champs to win, foul or no foul called by the refs should not matter as they should have created enough cushin between them and the Mavs. The fact is that the Mavs are hungrier and ready to prove they are for real. The Spurs, to me, came in to this series believing they have the Mavs number and shortly realized that this is a different team.
I've been truly enjoying this series that in my opinion IS the WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME !!!
Posted: 6:36 PM   by Anonymous
I remember back when the Mavs fans used to whine about refs and really were just being beaten by the Spurs, a better team. Kinda like what's happening now...
Posted: 10:55 PM   by The Ultimate Mavs Fan
The Mavs DEFINITELY have a better backcourt especially since having Devin Harris recover from his quad injury. It's obvious that the Mavs will either win in 5 or 6. GO MAVS!!!!!!
Posted: 1:27 AM   by Anonymous
Well, I am ready for Game 5. I know the SPURS are ready--so don't count them out yet! The SAN ANTONIO SPURS' fans know that we still believe--if any team can do it, the SPURS CAN!
Posted: 10:59 AM   by mark
after game three, everyone wanted to comment about the foul that sent dirk to the line with just under eight seconds to play (the play where dirk rolled his ankle). no, that wasn't a foul. but neither was it a foul on the spurs' previous possession where josh howard cleanly blocked manu gi-flop-ili, which resulted in two made free throws. if you're going to bitch and whine about calls, at least bitch and whine both ways.

and you're also right that bowen didn't foul dirk at the end of game four. but he did foul him about eight to ten other times that didn't get called. bowen could probably be arrested on the street for some of the things he does on the court. when you have choir boy ray allen saying that you're dirty, there might just be some truth to it.

the bottom line is if one bad foul call makes you lose the game, you didn't take care of business to begin with. this series is reminding me of the 1991 finals, where the superior athleticism of the bulls came out of nowhere and slammed the aging lakers in five games.
Posted: 12:06 PM   by Anonymous
I'm not a fan of either San Antonio or Dallas. I did, however, look forward to watching the series between the two best teams in the West. What I've seen is, unquestionably, the most obvious, disheartening example of "influencing" or "fixing" I have ever seen outside of professional wrestling.

It is apparent that the NBA and its television partners simply did not expect San Antonio to be able, coming off of the Sacremento series, to win game one of the series. After San Antonio actually won game one, the "bent" of the officiating obviously changed. Admittedly, it's tough to argue that fixing impacted the outcome of game two. However, during the second-quarter stretch in which Dallas, essentially, won that game, there was a succession of poor calls - and a succession of no calls that ought to have gone in favor of San Antonio.

Games three and four have, without question, been the worst officiated games I have ever seen - and I've been following the NBA since the mid-70s. The way the officials are handling Duncan and Parker relative to Nowitzki and D. Harris is embarrassing. Each game, particularly down the stretch, has been characterized by a succession of ridiculous calls. Essentially, and Dallas missed shot or charge down the stretch results in a San Antonio foul.

I can't believe there hasn't been more discussion about this issue.
Posted: 3:33 PM   by Dom
Give me a break. One of the respondants said he would show me the swamp land in Arizona if I could show him team that doesnt complain. How about Dallas? Other than the occasional walk away frustrated you have not seen one outburst like the hundreds of Duncan, Bowen, Finley, Van Excellent, or Brent Barry. As I told my poor Spurs fan friends, from game one most of us knew that this would happen becuase Champs dont complain like the Spurs did and coming into elimination the Spurs have not stopped and it is getting very fun to watch! Keep it up, the more you whine the more Dallas smiles and laughs!
Posted: 3:49 PM   by Dom
Can I give one more? This is a joke, this officiating thing. The games are all called like the others. Tehy are consisntent enought o where the players should know what is getting called and what isnt. Dallas is pushing the ball and attacking the rim which is going to lead to more calls. Spurs are setting up the half court and driving occasionaly but nothing close to the aggressiveness of DAllas. I have always hated Parker but I really like his game and the fact that he doesnt whine much at all.
Posted: 4:47 PM   by Anonymous
to have one of your goto guys foul out in the last minute or two of the game is tough to digest.. when timmy fouled out in gm3 with dirk stepping on tim and rolling his ankle, the gm was over. when manu fouled out in gm4 the game wasn't over but manu is the guy who creates the shots in 4th qtr. how cud these two calls not have changed the game's result.. as for all these comments re: tim whining.. puhleze, there is no other active player who is more sportive than tim (what he is not supposed to protest on picking up his 6th foul?) have u looked at the faces dirk makes everytime he misses a shot.. u wud think he had been clotheslined by bowen. and this is when dirk is not yelling at his teammates or throwing them under the bus.. the mavs will most probably beat spurs and might go to the finals. but they r no champs. they dont have the heart. its gonna take more time for avery to infuse some of the spurs philisophy into them. whover wins the east is going to win it all this year.
Posted: 8:05 PM   by Anonymous
Why does everyone hate the Mavs? And seriously there is NO WAY YOU CAN BLAME THE SPURS LOSES ON BAD OFFICATIATING. I know this first hand since I play basketball, there is always something else and watching the series I can tell the Spurs are plain out shooting themselves in the foot. When Ginobli steps up Parker becomes quiet and vice versa. But through out all of this the Mavs have proven to be the better team, defensively and offensively, Dallas is flat out better, quicker (and younger). My hat goes off to Avery Johnson on his turn around and I will look forward to the Mavs winning the NBA title. So I end this with one thing, GO MAVS!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 10:19 AM   by Anonymous
I'm back. Did anyone notice any differences in last night's officiating? Any differences in the way Duncan and Parker were handled? I think I even saw a couple offensive foul calls on D. Harris.

There is no question, again, that the games in this series are being intentionally influenced by the NBA and its friendly television partners. In many respects, I believe Dallas deserved to win last night's game. I don't think they deserved to win either game three or four. The officiating - the uneven and inconsistent officiating - has clearly played a role in the outcome of the last three games.

A prediction: in Friday night's game, the officiating will return to the standards applied in games three and four. Duncan will be fair game and Parker's drives won't be protected in the same way Harris' are. If the game is close, down the stretch, every Nowitzki miss will be a shooting foul. If the game is really close, either Duncan or Ginobili will foul out before the game reaches the two-minute mark.

My bet is that Dallas will win game six, by hook or by crook. At this point, the prospect of having either Dallas or Phoenix coming out of the West must be appealling to the NBA and its buddies at ABC. There's no way their going to take a chance on San Antonio forcing a game 7 at home.