DALLAS -- The rage rises without compromising the composure of Tim Duncan. This is the coolness of the San Antonio Spurs star, the calculating nature of a mind that rarely acts without considering the consequences. This made the words tumbling out of his mouth Sunday so startling because Duncan isn't one of those stars who throws out empty accusations.
In his own calm, measured way, Duncan was seething over the way official Joey Crawford, with what appeared to be virtually no provocation, tossed him out of Sunday's 91-86 loss to the Mavericks.
"Joey knew exactly what he was doing," Duncan said Sunday. "He came into this game with a personal vendetta against me. It had to be. Because I didn't do anything the entire the game."
Within a 76-second span of the third quarter, Crawford hit Duncan with two technical fouls, both coming while the All-Star was sitting on the bench. Duncan got the second "T" while he laughed and kidded with teammate Robert Horry.
"He's obviously got a personal problem with me," said Duncan, who sustained just the second ejection of his career.
Duncan insisted that the only words he exchanged with Crawford had been after failing to get a call on a shot against Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. Duncan said that he told the official, "I got fouled on the shot," and had nothing else to say to him until he got ejected.
What's more, Duncan insisted that Crawford became so belligerent with him on the floor that he challenged him to a fight.
"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?' " Duncan said. "If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?' "
Before Duncan delivered these charges at his locker after the game, Crawford defended himself to a pool reporter. When it was suggested that Duncan believed he had said nothing to deserve the ejection, Crawford said, "That's his opinion. He said nothing when he was walking off the court and he called me a piece of [blank]? Is that nothing?"
"... He's complaining. He was constantly complaining. He was complaining when he was on the court. Then he got on the bench and kept doing the same stuff. So I just ejected him."
Unlike Duncan, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wanted no part of a fine for ripping Crawford. He insisted that he would talk directly with the league office Monday. Nevertheless, the Spurs' pursuit of Phoenix for the Western Conference's No. 2 seed ended, and they are locked into the third spot and a series with streaking No. 6 seed Denver. San Antonio still had a chance to steal the game in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold back the Mavericks.
Afterward, Duncan wasn't thinking about Dallas, or Denver, just Crawford. The Spurs had won 12 of 13 games before Sunday's loss, with a defeat to the Pacers being the only blemish during that run. That had been a night when Crawford gave Duncan a technical foul. Maybe that was where all this had started, Duncan wondered. Nevertheless, Duncan went a long way Sunday to throw the onus on Crawford should he end up officiating the Spurs in the playoffs.
"I don't know what else he wants me to do? If he wants camera time, he's going to call the techs and get the camera time he wants," Duncan said. "... I guess I can't laugh anymore. I guess I can't enjoy the game anymore. I've got to sit there and put my head between my legs."