He’s the Mavericks’ latest playoff star and half of a suddenly unstoppable backcourt duo.
Terry made a crucial basket with 23 seconds left in regulation, opened overtime with a go-ahead layup, then protected the lead with a pair of rainbow jumpers. That pushed the Mavericks past the San Antonio Spurs 123-118 Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their second-round series.
“Our will and our desire to never give up came through,” Terry said.
Dallas has won three straight since Devin Harris joined Terry in a two-point-guard lineup. The Mavs are one win from knocking out the reigning champs and making the conference finals for the second time in four years.
It could happen as soon as Game 5 Wednesday night in San Antonio.
“It’s going to take a tremendous effort,” Terry said. “We like our chances.”
Should Dallas win again, fans might be disappointed to see the series end. Expectations have been building since it became obvious in December this would be a second-round matchup, and four games later it’s close to being a classic. This was the third one decided at the end, the first that required overtime.
The Spurs came out with a surprising lineup featuring Tim Duncan and four players 6-foot-7 or shorter. Tony Parker made it work by repeatedly blowing past Harris, putting San Antonio up by nine early. He finished with 33 points, his most in a playoff game.
Duncan was at his best again with 31 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. And, again, it wasn’t enough.
Dirk Nowitzki shook off a twisted ankle to score 28 points, including a pair of free throws that tied it with 8.5 seconds left in regulation.
Jerry Stackhouse added 26 and Harris had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. Erick Dampier had eight points, nine rebounds and a strong defensive stand that forced Duncan to come up short on a potential winning shot at the end of regulation.
“It’s a heavyweight fight, a slugfest and, boy, each team was throwing punches,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “Fortunately, we had a little more in the tank.”
San Antonio played well enough to win the last two games. A crucial mistake at the end of Game 3 hurt and this time coach Gregg Popovich lamented getting outrebounded 10-2 in overtime, starting with allowing Dallas a pair of offensive rebounds on the first possession. The Spurs never led in the extra period.
“It’s not a situation where we’re getting blown out and getting our hats handed to us,” forward Bruce Bowen said. “It’s the small things. If we do the small things we’re going to be successful. … We’re right there. I feel like we’re on the cusp of doing great things.”
Only eight teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA series, including Phoenix this season. The Spurs’ history makes them a long shot to become No. 9.
Since Duncan joined the club in 1997, San Antonio is 0-5 when trailing this deep into a playoff series. They’ve also lost every time they’ve faced an elimination game to keep a series going. The only time they won when facing elimination was Game 7 of last year’s finals.
“We have to keep pushing,” Robert Horry said. “The good thing is we’re going home.”
But can they find a way to handle Harris & Terry?
Terry stopped himself last season, getting burned by Nash on the deciding play of Dallas’ final game. Nowitzki yelled at him on the court, although they’ve become tight off it.
He showed why this time, repeatedly hitting shots the Mavericks absolutely had to have.
“He’s one of the best clutch players I’ve ever played with,” Nowitzki said. “He doesn’t care what time it is on the clock, he makes those shots.”
Harris set up the late go-ahead jumper in regulation by grabbing a loose rebound and throwing a cross-court pass. He got one of the early rebounds to set up Terry’s first OT layup, then came barreling down court for a finger roll that stretched the lead.
Johnson said he was proud of Harris for not getting discouraged by Parker’s strong start.
“He showed me something tonight,” Johnson said.
San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, coming off the bench for a second straight game, made 8 of 11 field goals and all six of his free throws for 26 points. He fouled out with 2:28 left.
Former Mavs star Michael Finley almost was the hero in his first playoff start for San Antonio. He scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 15.4 seconds left that put the Spurs ahead 111-109.
“We’re still breathing,” Finley said. “We have the opportunity to go back to San Antonio. I hope we’re fortunate enough to make the trip back here.”
Dallas F Adrian Griffin, who lost his starting job to Harris, didn’t play for the second straight game. … Spurs C Rasho Nesterovic played 0.7 seconds after not being used in Game 3. … This was San Antonio’s third lineup of the series and fifth in 10 playoff games. … NBA commissioner David Stern attended and discussed a new playoff seeding format that, if used this season, would’ve slotted Dallas second instead of fourth, ensuring the teams with the two best records couldn’t meet until the conference finals.