SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The last time Avery Johnson shook up the Dallas Mavericks lineup, he sparked a 13-game winning streak.
The latest move by the NBA’s coach of the year pulled the Mavericks even with the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.
Johnson turned to Devin Harris to crank up the tempo and the speedy point guard responded, sending the Mavericks zooming to a 21-point lead before halftime on their way to a 113-91 victory over the defending champions on Tuesday night.
“He really got in the paint and attacked us very well,” Spurs star Tim Duncan said. “A lot of credit to (Avery) for making that move.”
The Spurs won the opener 87-85, with the Mavs making all sorts of mistakes. Their lackadaisical offense bothered Johnson the most, so he let Harris start, moving Jason Terry to shooting guard and putting defensive-minded Adrian Griffin on the bench.
The result: Dallas went to the rim for seven of its first nine baskets and was up by eight points before going on a 15-3 run. San Antonio never got within 14 again and the Mavs finished with their highest point total of the playoffs and eighth-best this entire season.
“We played a game that was pretty much our style,” Johnson said. “A lot of that had to do with Devin being out there.”
The Spurs fell apart on both ends of the court in the second quarter. Besides giving up 32 points—one less than Dallas scored the entire second half of Game 1—San Antonio went the final 6:59 of the period without a basket, missing nine straight shots.
“We knew they were going to play aggressive,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t match it.”
About the only good news for the Spurs is finally getting some rest. With Game 3 not until Saturday night, San Antonio will be able to recover from three games in five days. Coach Gregg Popovich gave his players the day off Wednesday.
Josh Howard epitomized Dallas’ take-it-to-the-rim approach and led the team with 27 points. The Mavericks are now 20-0 when he scores 20 points.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21, but took a lesser role in the offense. Harris scored 20, while Jason Terry, who started at shooting guard, had 11. Stackhouse scored 19.
“We’re at our best when we’re getting a lot of points in the paint, getting drives to the basket,” said Harris, who scored a career-high 22 against San Antonio in November.
Duncan was 8-of-10 from the field and made 12 of 14 free throws for 28 points. He had 16 in the first half, but half came from the foul line, so it didn’t seem as dominant as his 20 first-half points in the opener. The Mavericks made things tougher on Duncan by sending two and sometimes three defenders at him.
Parker, playing with a thick pad wrapped around his bruised left thigh, had 15. Manu Ginobili was 1-for-5 in the brutal first half and wound up with 13 points.
While nobody expected any routs in this conference finals-caliber matchup, one would’ve seemed more likely in Game 1, when the Spurs came in worn out and Dallas was well rested. Instead, the Spurs won by two points and Johnson accused them of smothering his team with “bear-hug defense.”
He clarified it Monday, saying he meant his players turned passive. He challenged them to come out as if they were playing on a playground and a loss meant they’d have to wait an hour for another try.
Now the Mavs get to spend the rest of the week savoring their second win in seven tries in San Antonio and only their fourth win in the last 11 games against the Spurs.
Well, Dallas fans can. Johnson won’t let his players.
“We’re not 20 points better than the Spurs,” Johnson said. “They’re the champions, they’re still the champions. One win by a team in the Western Conference semifinals doesn’t mean anything has been taken away from them.”
Harris and Howard went right at Duncan and the heart of San Antonio’s defense from the start on their way to a 26-point first quarter. Early in the second, Dallas was on the right end of a series of questionable calls and non-calls by the officials. The Mavericks benefited more by how much it annoyed the Spurs and their fans.
San Antonio guard Nick Van Exel got two technical fouls in a short span, leading to his ejection with 7:30 left in the second quarter. The ensuing free throw started the spurt that sent the Mavericks into halftime leading 58-38.
The officials were booed loudly as they walked to the locker room—and even more loudly when they came back out.
While Popovich said the officiating “had nothing to do with it,” Duncan wasn’t that politically correct.
“The whistle was going crazy left and right,” he said of the second quarter.
San Antonio’s 38-point half matched the lowest Dallas has ever allowed in a playoff game. It also happened against the Spurs in Game 3 of the 2003 conference finals, a game San Antonio rallied to win.
Not this time.
The Spurs got within 15 three times in the third quarter, then 14 on a 3-pointer by Brent Barry with 7:32 left. Popovich conceded with 4:12 left, pulling Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
The game was tense at first, with the first foul called 12 seconds in and both coaches getting technical fouls for arguing before the game was four minutes old. … After only eight assists in the opener, Dallas had 12. … Spurs C Nazr Mohammed, who’s gone from starter to seldom-used reserve, played 12 minutes. He played a total of four the two previous games.