Wed, May 24, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Mavericks scupper Spurs' bid for NBA title

AFP , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

The Phoenix Suns' Shawn Marion, left, watches two of his 30 points go in as the Los Angeles Clippers' Corey Maggette defends during the fourth quarter of game seven during an NBA second-round playoff game on Monday at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns won 127-107 to advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

PHOTO: AP

The Dallas Mavericks finally found a solution for Tim Duncan and San Antonio, surging to a 119-115 win in overtime to halt the Spurs' bid for their second straight NBA title.

Dirk Nowitzki, who had 37 points and 15 rebounds, forced overtime with a season-saving three-point play for the Mavs who reached the conference finals for the third time in franchise history.

"We believed it was our time to win this," Nowitzki said.

Dallas, who have never been the National Basketball Association Finals, will face Phoenix in a best-of-seven semi-final series after the Suns eliminated the Clippers 127-107 in one of two game sevens on Monday. Dallas hosts game one today.

Dallas narrowly avoided the specter of a catastophic collapse. After squandering a 3-1 series lead, the Mavericks blew a 20-point second-quarter lead and were one miss away from yet another setback to their Texas-sized nemesis.

Instead, the Mavericks showed the heart that has made the Spurs champions. They denied San Antonio the chance to become the ninth team -- and second during this postseason -- to overcome a 3-1 deficit.

Wilting under the demands of defending Duncan -- who had a playoff career-high 41 points, 15 rebounds and six assists -- the Mavericks faced their first deficit at a terrible time.

Duncan passed out of a double-team to Manu Ginobili, whose three-pointer gave the Spurs a 104-101 lead with 32 seconds remaining in regulation and brought a roar from the crowd at the ATT Center, who sensed the completion of a historic comeback.

Nowitzki had other ideas. Instead of settling for one of his patented jumpers, he overpowered a smaller defender on his way to the basket and dropped in a layup while drawing a hard foul from Ginobili. His free throw tied it with 21 seconds to go.

"We had a similar situation in game six," Nowitzki said. "We didn't have a lot of time left, I forced a three and the game was over. This time, I had a clear shot to the basket and a lot of time left.

"I don't know how the ball went in. Manu hit my hand. It was a lucky bounce."

Ginobili and Duncan missed in the final seconds of regulation, and the Spurs never led again.

In overtime, they repeatedly went to Duncan, who couldn't pull the trigger and missed a series of close shots.

"We put ourselves in position to win the game," Duncan said.

"We fought all the way back in overtime and we didn't have much left in the tank."

Directed by MVP Steve Nash in Phoenix, the Suns sank a team playoff-record 15 three-pointers and won their second game seven of the playoffs.

Nash had 29 points and 11 assists for the second-seeded Suns, who have been pushed to the limit in each of their first two series but have emerged with convincing closing wins on their home floor.

"When the games mean the most that is when it is the most fun," Nash said. "Game seven brings out the best in us."

In the first round, Phoenix became the ninth team in history to erase a 3-1 deficit and win a series, roaring to a 121-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in game seven. This one was not as overwhelming but just as effective.

Often overpowered on the interior in this series, the Suns stayed true to their style and fired early and often from the arc.

They attempted 27 three-pointers, with six players making at least one. Meanwhile, the Clippers were 0-of-4 from the arc.

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