“Man, one big game,” Parker said, smiling. “Look at all this.”
Jefferson took it in stride. After all, he was probably glad Parker didn’t woof or bark.
Knowing he was among the guys Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thought “played like dogs” in the opener, Jefferson bounced back by scoring 17 of his 19 points in the first half to help San Antonio beat the Dallas Mavericks 102-88 in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The win ties their first-round series at a game apiece, with the next two games in the Alamo City.
“You could see it in his eyes that he was motivated,” Parker said. “Nobody likes to play bad and he knew he didn’t have a good first game. Knowing his mentality, we knew he was going to come back.”
Jefferson matched the measly four points he had in Game 1 points before some fans were even settled into their seats. He was 7 of 9 by halftime, and was at his best during a 12-1 run late in the second quarter that broke the game open for good. He got it started with a fadeaway jumper and a finger roll, then added a reverse layup after the Mavericks somehow lost track of him.
“My teammates were looking for me, coming off the pick-and-roll and throwing it back to me,” Jefferson said. “That’s pretty much my game. After I struggled the last game, I think there was a concerted effort to get me involved.”
“We went to Tim just about every other time down the stretch,” Popovich said. “He came through by scoring and rebounding at the other end.”
Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki(notes) went from hardly missing in Game 1 to hardly making. The Spurs didn’t even smother him; merely knowing they were creeping his way threw Nowitzki out of whack. He missed six of his first seven shots, and even missed a free throw after having made 88 in a row.
“If they give me those same looks on Friday, I’ll take them,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 24 points, down from 36 in the opener.
The Mavericks played their best only after they seemed to have buried themselves—down 16-5 early, they got within one by the end of the quarter; down 80-60 late in the third quarter they scored 12 straight points; back down 13 early in the fourth, they clawed within five. However, they never led and have now given away home-court advantage.
Game 3 is in San Antonio on Friday night, and the folks down there are probably especially looking forward to seeing Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who fanned the flames of the rivalry in recent days by repeatedly saying, “I hate the Spurs.”
San Antonio built its leads by playing smart.
The Spurs held onto the ball (only nine turnovers, down from 17 in Game 1), forced their way to the rim, then took advantage of the space that opened up for longer-range jumpers. In the game-breaking second quarter, their inside-out attack produced 34 points on 68 percent shooting.
“They were a hot-shooting team and we were unable to keep them from being a hot-shooting team,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “When the ball’s in the air, it’s anybody’s ball. They came up with all those plays. They got the loose balls and they were more opportunistic.”
Ginobili had 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:48 left that he punctuated with a celebratory punch as fans began rushing toward the exits.
Parker, still coming off the bench, had 16 points and eight assists.
None of the other “dogs” made a big dent in the stat sheet, but they didn’t have to. Jefferson filled the scoring void and everyone else filled their roles.
“We just played sharper than we did the other night, by that I mean not fouling and taking care of the ball,” Popovich said. “We were focused.”
The Mavs got only five points from their center tandem of Erick Dampier(notes) and Brendan Haywood(notes), all from Haywood. Jason Kidd(notes) was 1 of 7 for five points and Shawn Marion(notes) had just six.
“When we’re cold on the offensive end we’ve got to dig in defensively a little bit better,” Haywood said. “We’ve got to lock up a little better and we didn’t do that tonight. They had way too many offensive rebound opportunities and they scored almost every time they got an offensive rebound.”
Sure enough, San Antonio scored 23 second-chance points, Dallas just nine. That 14-point difference matched the final margin.
NOTES: The Spurs got to the line more, but wasted the chances. They missed eight of 22 free throws. … Dallas’ Eddie Najera went from not playing the opener to being first off the bench when Nowitzki got his second foul. … Popovich changed his rotation, too, leaving Keith Bogans(notes) on the bench after using him 16 minutes in Game 1. … Hill made his first field goal of the series in the fourth quarter. He was 0 for 2 in the opener, and 0 for 4 until swishing a 3-pointer.