Tony Parker had another impressive offensive performance, Manu Ginobili was stunning at both ends of the court and Tim Duncan recovered from a slow start to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 102-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
San Antonio took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 5 set for today. The Mavericks kept the game interesting and close throughout. But in the end, the absence of Dirk Nowitzki because of a sprained knee ligament was too much to overcome.
"We knew they were going to use the circumstances to give them energy, and they made a valiant effort tonight -- which is what we expected," San Antonio's Bruce Bowen said.
French-born Parker scored 25 points, Ginobili of Argentina had a career playoff-high 21 and Duncan -- who had only eight points at halftime -- added 21 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists for the Spurs, who overcame an emotional and desperate effort from the Mavericks.
San Antonio is now one victory away from advancing to the NBA Finals to play the New Jersey Nets beginning June 4.
"New Jersey finished Detroit and is getting some rest, so we need some rest, too. We've got some old guys on this team," Parker said.
Michael Finley and Steve Nash scored 25 each and Nick Van Exel added 22 for the Mavericks, whose comeback attempts in the fourth quarter fell short.
"I thought we had a shot," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "I thought we were going to find a way to win, but evidently we got their attention with that first game in San Antonio."
With Nowitzki and two other centers injured, the Mavericks had no choice but to go with a small lineup and try to beat San Antonio the same way Phoenix did twice in the first round -- collapsing on Duncan on defense, and using dribble penetration plays and 3-point shooting on offense.
After San Antonio went ahead 89-80 with a 7-0 run, Dallas came back and pulled within two on a 3-pointer by Raef LaFrentz with 3:12 left. Malik Rose answered with a dunk, and LaFrentz airballed 3-pointer on his final shot attempt of the night. He fouled out less than a minute later.
Duncan hit one of two from the line, Ginobili stole the ball from Walt Williams and Rose scored inside with 2 seconds left on the shot clock for a 96-89 lead with 1:40 left.
Two misses by Van Exel were followed by an offensive foul on Duncan, sending the game into the final minute with San Antonio holding a 96-89 lead.
ESPN will show Dallas at San Antonio (Game 5) live at 9am tomorrow.