Mavericks 115, Spurs 91
Then Duncan went out with a bruised thigh early in the second half, and the Mavericks were able to put on a show.
Michael Finley opened the third quarter with a dunk and closed it with a swish from behind the halfcourt stripe, perfect bookends for a 46-point period that sent Dallas past San Antonio 115-91 Thursday night.
“I told the team before the game it was going to be a playoff atmosphere, so let’s have a playoff attitude,” said Finley, who had 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers.
Duncan went out with 7:15 left in the third, having already produced 22 points and 17 rebounds in 25 minutes. Although he appeared to be rubbing his left knee, and teammates said that’s what he was complaining about, the team announced that the problem was just above it.
“He’s got some sort of thigh contusion,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s probably going to miss a little bit of time.”
Duncan spent about 20 minutes in the trainer’s room, then limped out of the locker room and was taken to the team bus on a golf cart. His only comment was, “I don’t know what happened.”
San Antonio already was down by nine when Duncan went out. The Spurs never got any closer and wound up with their most lopsided loss of the season, ending their run of seven wins in their last eight games.
Dallas won its fourth straight and improved its league-best home record to 26-4.
The Mavs also improved to 3-0 against San Antonio this season, clinching the season series. That would matter if the teams end the season with identical records. Both were 60-22 last season, but the Spurs won the division by virtue of a better head-to-head record.
The impressive part of this victory, though, was how it happened.
“They like to play a halfcourt game, so we wanted to make it a fast-paced game,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 23 points.
Dallas torched the NBA’s stingiest defense for the most points it has allowed in regulation all season, closing in on the season-worst of 120 that came in double overtime. And, the Mavs shot 52.6 percent against a unit that was holding foes to 40.3 percent, second-best in the league.
The 46 points in the third quarter was the most Dallas had ever scored in that period. It also was more than the Spurs allow in most halves. They’d only given up 100 points four times, none since Jan. 14. Dallas had that with eight minutes left.
San Antonio was able to keep pace for the first half, but everything changed after guard Tony Parker opened the third quarter with an airball on a 3-pointer.
Nowitzki caught the shot and heaved it downcourt to Finley, who had taken off when Parker put it up. His dunk was followed by a steal on the inbounds pass, prompting the first of three timeouts Popovich called in the first five minutes of the quarter.
Antoine Walker, who badly missed his first five shots of the game, kept the crowd of 20,458 roaring with a big dunk in traffic. Then came a 3-pointer by Steve Nash, a nifty move by Nowitzki to free himself for a jumper and another stolen inbounds pass, which led to a 3 by Finley.
The excitement peaked right after Duncan went out, with Nowitzki turning a diving save and inbounds flick by Manu Ginobili into a layup. Finley then threw a long bounce pass to Walker for another dunk and Walker drained a 3-pointer.
The Spurs let the deficit grow by missing 12 straight shots from 32.4 seconds left in the third until 6:34 of the fourth.
“We missed Tim, but that’s no excuse for the way we played,” Parker said.
Nash had 15 points and nine assists, Antawn Jamison scored 13 points and Walker finished with 11.
The victory puts the Mavs a half-game behind San Antonio, both trailingMinnesota. They meet again next Friday in San Antonio.
Neither team led by more than five in the first half, and the lead changed hands 14 times. The Spurs trailed by at least five after the first basket of the second half. … No Dallas player was used more than 34 minutes. … Ten of the previous 15 games between these teams were decided by three or less. … Duncan had 10 rebounds in the first quarter and 16 at halftime. He seemed on his way to highs for the season (21) and his career (25). …The mostDallas ever scored in a quarter was 51 against Golden State in 1985.