Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mavs nipped in San Antone 97-94

SAN ANTONIO – Some of the characters have changed, adding another level of intrigue to perhaps the league’s best rivalry, but the essence of Mavericks-Spurs hasn’t changed.

It’s bitter. It’s intense. It’s personal.

So it should come as no surprise that playoff sweat dripped onto the hardwood inside a packed and raucous AT&T Center. When the Spurs finally walked off the court grasping the hard-earned 97-94 victory, the Mavs were left to count up all the missed opportunities.

“Tonight’s game was a heavyweight fight and we just didn’t have that last punch at the end to bring it home,” Avery Johnson said. “We battled tonight and got a chance to see what match-ups we liked or didn’t like and we had a chance see how our defense works with different players. For our first time playing with this team I felt we played hard.”

Three missed shots in the last 25 seconds – two by Dirk Nowitzki and another by Jason Terry allowed San Antonio to take a 2-1 lead in the season series. The Spurs visit American Airlines Center on March 23 for the last regular-season scuffle between the two.

No telling whether a postseason rematch is in the cards, but if one is, it can’t get much better than Thursday. Or can it?

“The game was just what everyone expected it to be,” Nowitzki “It was a physical, fun game that came down to the wire. We had some good looks down the stretch and just couldn’t come up with a big play to force overtime.

“We had our chance. We just fell a bit short. It was a game that was up for grabs. It was back-and-forth in the fourth quarter that could have gone either way with a couple of bounces of the basketball.”

The Mavs (38-20) fell two games back of San Antonio (39-17) in the Southwest Division. Dallas returns home to host Sacramento on Friday night.

The teams traded elbows and baskets for 48 minutes in a contest as close as the final score indicated. The lead changed hands 19 times, with 16 ties. In the fourth quarter alone, no side led by more than Dallas’ five points.

Nowitzki led the Mavs with 28 points, 17 coming on 21 trips to the line. Josh Howard and Brandon Bass added 16 each. The other five Mavs who played – Johnson used only eight for the first time this season – scored 34 points combined.

Tim Duncan (game-high 31 points and 15 rebounds) gave the home team a 96-94 lead with two pressure-packed free throws with 34.5 seconds remaining. Nowitzki misfired from the left free-throw line extended on the ensuing possession, but the Mavs kept the ball when San Antonio knocked the rebound out of bounds.

Nowitzki and Terry couldn’t force a tie, though a whistle could have come on both shots, including Bruce Bowen’s block on Terry’s try with about three seconds left. The whistles never sounded and San Antonio closed it out. Jason Kidd (10 assists) wasn’t on the floor after Duncan’s free throws.

“We wanted to spread the floor and put all of our shooters in the game during the last couple of minutes to give Dirk more room to operate with different situations,” Johnson said.

“We had a good situation, a set play, but we just didn’t make a shot, but we definitely had an opportunity to win,” Terry said. “It was disappointing, but at the same time we have lots of time to get better. It’s a great game to learn from, to watch film and break it down. We have lost the past two games in San Antonio by a total of four points.”


Anonymous said...

I am so pissed with Avery right now. How can we put Kidd on the bench at the end of the game. I don't understand how this helps us get better. I'm not saying we would have won if he had been in the game, but I think this decision could have serious locker room repercussions.

Anonymous said...

Avery needs to be fired. How ridiculous is it to say in a press conference less than two weeks ago that the reason Kidd is here is to win games down the stretch, and then bench him for the final possession in a two-point game against the defending world champions. You know Cuban was steaming. I'm sure Kidd was both perplexed and irritated. And there's no doubt that Dirk was upset. Avery's attempt to show everyone who's boss not only hurt the Mavs chances of winning the game, but it dealt a serious blow to locker-room chemistry. How can Kidd trust Avery now? What's the rest of the team to think? This is depressing. A divided team has no chance in the playoffs. This is the beginning of the end for Avery.

Anonymous said...

Freaking Ridiculous...That's the only thought I can put together for Kidd not being in the game at the end. Overcoaching is becoming a theme.

Anonymous said...

We give Avery ONE mulligan on this. If he does this again, he is gone.

Step two is needed also - They need to let Kidd have the ball in his hands at the end of a game to be a playmaker. Avery went to JET/DIRK pickNroll.

I always thought Avery was a great coach but now I am 2nd guessing that.

A decision like this cost the Mavs a LOT of momentum, chemistry, and FANs.
It may just pass (if the Mavs play great and he doesn't do bone-head decisions again) but if he ADMITS he made the wrong call... then his decision will more easily be forgiven.
Stackhouse as a shooter? He shoots under 40%, forces up shots, and shoots like 29% from 3pts. Kidd is a better 3pt shooter at 36%.

Even with Avery's warped logic, it was still the wrong decision.