Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Mavericks cling to their playoff hopes

WEST CONFERENCE The Spurs looked like securing the winner in the best-of-seven series before suffering a 29-10 fourth-quarter collapse in favor of the visitors


Argentine Emanuel Ginobili, right, of the San Antonio Spurs fights for a loose ball with Adrian Griffin of the Dallas Mavericks during Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas.


The Dallas Mavericks battled back from a 19-point deficit for a 103-91 win over the heavily-favoured San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday to extend their West Conference final series to a sixth game.

The teams head back to Dallas for Game Six of the best-of-seven series on Thursday, with a possible decider set for San Antonio on Saturday.

The Spurs still lead the series 3-2, but have to be concerned after yet another late-game collapse including a lopsided 29-10 fourth quarter in favor of the visitors.

The Mavericks started slowly and looked to be about to go quietly after a season that began with 14 straight wins.

With scoring leader and top rebounder Dirk Nowitzki again watching from the bench with a knee injury, Dallas fell 30-23 behind after the first quarter in which San Antonio hit 65 percent from the floor.

The Spurs stretched their lead to 19 points midway through the second quarter before the Mavs made it respectable with a 13-6 run to make it 58-47 at the break.

Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel then stepped up when the Mavs needed it most and led Dallas to victory, scoring 31 and 21 points respectively.

"Our overall attitude was a lot better in the second half," Finley said.

Steve Nash chipped in with 14.

"It was a pretty good job by Nelly [Dallas coach Don Nelson]," Spurs forward Malik Rose said of the Mavericks' surge.

"We showed a lack of maturity at the end of the second quarter," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

Dallas was also a perfect 23-of-23 from the line.

Nelson was delighted with his team's battling qualities.

"All through the game I just kept saying, hang in there, hang in there," he said.

Tim Duncan notched 23 points and 15 boards for the Spurs, who got 20 more from Stephen Jackson.

Eastern Conference champions New Jersey Nets awaits the winner of the series in Game One of the NBA Finals on June 4.

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