Mavericks vs. Spurs: Game 7The Mavs battled the top-seeded Spurs to the brink of elimination but couldn't come away with Sunday's decisive finale.
SAN ANTONIO – All good things must come to an end.
After staving off elimination with Friday night’s 113-111 home win and forcing a decisive Game 7 in their first-round playoff series against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks returned to AT&T Center with plenty of momentum.
Looking to end the rival Spurs’ season and move on to the second round, the Mavericks returned to San Antonio full of confidence while entering Sunday’s matinee matchup. However, in the Mavs’ way stood a Spurs team that finished with the NBA’s best record during the regular season at 62-20. And despite a valiant effort by the eighth-seeded Mavericks, their season would come to an end after the Spurs sprinted to the second round while handing the visiting Dallas team a 119-96 defeat.
“You know, we came together at the beginning of the year with nine new guys,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said while summing up the season. “There were a lot of questions about a lot of things, and the guys just worked to stay together and become a more together group. As the season went on there was growth and there were a lot of hard games. And there were a lot of hard games to just get to the playoffs, but for most groups it would have been OK just to get here with what we had been through. But our guys really pointed towards, you know, how can we win the series? You know, what can we do? They knew they were going to have to dig deep and do a lot of things that were unconventional, and we gave ourselves a chance. And you know, today, we got hit by a tidal wave early. They had their best game today, and we just weren’t about to do quite enough to stay in it early.”
Showing that he was ready to lead his team to an upset win, 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki opened the game with a vintage jumper. However, the Spurs would quickly respond, scoring seven straight points at the other end to grab the upper hand.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker then put the home team up 16-7 with a mid-range jumper, forcing a timeout by Carlisle with 6:41 left in the opening period. The Mavericks still wouldn’t settle down from there, though, finding themselves in a double-digit hole. But, after Carlisle was assessed a technical foul for arguing with officials at the 1:59 mark of the period, Nowitzki would reemerge with back-to-back makes, stopping a stretch of five straight misses. Still, the visiting Mavs trailed by as many as 14 before facing a 35-23 deficit heading into the second period.
“I thought every home game here so far they hit us with an early run,” Nowitzki said of the quick deficit. “I think every game they were up eight, nine, 10 really quick, and then we kind of settled in. … But that just didn’t happen today. They kept piling on. You know, Parker was fantastic early on, making shots and getting to the basket on our switches, and whoever came in made some shots for them. We just never really could weather the storm.”
Continuing to get a lift in the series from backup big man DeJuan Blair, the Mavericks hoped to stage a rally in the second stanza. However, Blair’s flagrant penalty-one foul delivered to Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili on a drive would continue to keep the Mavs at a separation on the scoreboard early in the quarter.
Spurs big man Tim Duncan then began to assert himself inside, giving the home team a 42-25 advantage with 9:37 left in the first half. Parker took control soon afterwards, boosting the Spurs to a lead as large as 29 before Mavs reserve guard Devin Harris’ late 3-pointer made it a 68-46 disadvantage entering the intermission.
Overshadowing Nowitzki’s 17 first-half points on 6-of-13 shooting, Parker controlled the first 24 minutes of action while scoring 24 points and hitting nine of his 12 shots. Meanwhile, the Spurs lit the net on fire, hitting 68.4 percent from the field and holding the Mavericks to just 42.9 percent at the other end of the court to go along with 19 points off Dallas’ nine turnovers.
Switching to a small-ball lineup featuring guards Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Harris alongside Nowitzki and sixth man Vince Carter, the Mavs would come alive to open the second half. Carter’s driving score then made it a 14-point game at 75-61, forcing a San Antonio timeout with 7:54 left in the third.
Harris also took it upon himself to step up, scoring 10 points in the period. But Parker would again put the Spurs on his back, battling through a flagrant foul by Mavs second-year standout Jae Crowder. Ginobili’s corner 3-pointer then took the Spurs into the fourth with a 94-68 advantage.
“I thought the small lineup helped a little bit. We went to me as the 5, and that messed them up for a little bit. But the hole was just a little bit too big,” Nowitzki explained.
Playing his veterans to start the fourth, Carlisle continued to hold out hope of an epic comeback. Nowitzki did his best to muster up a rally, relentlessly attacking on the offensive end.
Down 29, however, Nowitzki took a seat with 6:09 remaining in the fourth, ending his 16th season in the process. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pulled his main contributors a short time later with the final verdict no longer in doubt. And after the separation peaked at 31, the Mavs limped off the hardwood to end their season.
“Everyone counted us out from Day 1 to even get here, and it felt like a championship game,” Ellis explained. “It was a great experience and everybody was on board. I’m very proud of what we did and what we overcame. We came together as a team and took the best team in the NBA to a dogfight all the way to the end.”
Finishing with 22 points on 8-of-21 shooting, Nowitzki added nine rebounds in a losing effort. Harris pitched in 17 points off the bench and Ellis scored 12 points on just 3-of-11 shooting in the first unit. Carter was the only other Mav in double figures with 10 points in a reserve role.
“I thought we really left it all out there,” Nowitzki said. “But usually in a seven-game series the better team always wins. They were phenomenal today, so that’s where that’s at.”
“They hit us hard and they never looked back,” Ellis echoed. “They were the better team tonight. They shot almost 70 percent throughout the whole game, and hats off to them. They were the better team tonight.”
Parker led five Spurs in double figures with 32 points on 11-of-19 from the field. The Spurs also outshot the Mavs on the night, 56.8 percent to 40.9 percent, adding 26 points off 14 Dallas turnovers and a 40-39 rebounding edge.
“They’re the best of the best, and they’ve been great for a long time,” Carlisle concluded with a great amount of respect for the Spurs. “We respect the heck out of San Antonio, and they’ve got a great chance moving forward, obviously. But I’m real proud of our guys and what we were able to do, even though we didn’t get to the next step.”
|Shawn Marion, F||20||5||1||1||0||3||2||1||2||2||-21||2-5||0-1||1-2|
|Dirk Nowitzki, F||35||22||0||2||1||9||7||2||1||1||-30||8-21||0-2||6-7|
|Samuel Dalembert, C||8||2||0||0||0||6||2||4||0||1||-18||1-3||0-0||0-0|
|Monta Ellis, G||31||12||2||0||1||2||1||1||2||5||-24||3-11||2-6||4-4|
|Jose Calderon, G||29||4||4||0||0||2||2||0||0||4||-1||2-8||0-2||0-0|
San Antonio Spurs
|Kawhi Leonard, F||29||15||1||0||0||6||5||1||0||2||15||7-14||1-5||0-1|
|Tim Duncan, F||30||15||1||0||2||8||5||3||2||2||23||7-8||0-0||1-2|
|Tiago Splitter, C||15||1||0||1||1||2||1||1||0||4||15||0-0||0-0||1-2|
|Danny Green, G||32||16||1||1||1||3||3||0||0||4||21||5-7||4-6||2-2|
|Tony Parker, G||34||32||4||0||0||4||4||0||3||1||13||11-19||0-1||10-13|
Postgame: Dirk NowitzkiDirk Nowitzki addresses the media after the Mavericks lose to the Spurs in Game 7.
Postgame: Rick CarlisleRick Carlisle addresses the media after the Mavericks lose to the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
Vince with the Finger RollVince Carter attacks the basket with the high-flying finger roll.
SAN ANTONIO — They’re the two greatest words in sports: Game 7.
Staving off elimination with a furious rally during the fourth quarter of Friday’s Game 6 in Dallas, the Mavericks forced a decisive first-round series finale following a thrilling 113-111 victory in front of their hometown fans. Now, the Mavs will try to complete the job, looking to pull the upset on the road against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in Sunday’s matinee tipoff.
“Our guys knew what was at stake [Friday], and we’re in a situation where we know what’s at stake Sunday,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle declared shortly after his team’s Game 6 victory. “We’ve got a lot of veteran guys that have been in a lot of playoff games and a lot of big games, and our biggest thing is we’ve got to communicate well, we’ve got to really help each out at both ends of the court and we’ve got to play at a break-neck level of intensity without being frantic and without losing our poise. That’s what it’s about. And hey, they’ve got a great building, their fans are fantastic, but we’ve got to really just concentrate on us.”
With shades of 2006 in his mind, 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki will again try to lead the Mavs to a Game 7 win on the Spurs’ home floor.
Like now, the Spurs were also the top seed in the Western Conference eight years ago, falling into a 3-1 series hole before rallying to force a Game 7 in their own gym. The Spurs then charged back from down 20 before pulling ahead by three in the final seconds of regulation. That’s when Nowitzki intervened, driving for a three-point play over Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili to force overtime before leading the Mavs to a win in the extra period.
Nowitzki will now try to once again lead the Mavericks to a series-clinching victory on the Spurs’ floor, looking to boost the eighth-seeded squad to the second round of the playoffs.
“It’s the ultimate thrill,” Nowitzki said of Game 7. “You know, it’s win or go home. Everything that happened before is out the window. Nothing matters anymore but just this one game. Great competition, the ultimate competition, and you know, you’ve just got to love it and you’ve got to embrace it. We’re going into a tough environment against a great team, but you know, we’ve just got to embrace the opportunity and just keep playing hard, keep competing.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs will attempt to not put the burden solely on Nowitzki’s broad shoulders, hoping starting 2-guard Monta Ellis can pick up where he left off at on Friday.
With his team down by five entering the fourth, Ellis took it upon himself to step up his level of aggression. Still, even after scoring 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to shift the series back to San Antonio, Ellis admits that he may have to do more in order to prevail on Sunday.
“My teammates just told me to be aggressive,” Ellis modestly said of his epic fourth quarter. “You know, throughout the game they told me, ‘We’re going to keep it close and then the fourth quarter is yours.’ You know, [Mavs owner] Mark Cuban told me the same thing and coach Carlisle. And my teammates just believed in me, so the only I had to do was go out there and respond. Take what the defense gave me, pick my poison when I want to take the jumpshot and when I want to attack the basket, and I just had to be more aggressive.
“The biggest thing for us is we’ve got to play together,” he added while shifting his focus to Game 7. “We’ve got to play hard for all 48 minutes. We know that we’re going to be away and it’s going to be very loud in there, but we’ve just got to ride the course. Try not to make as many mistakes, get out and run, put all our chips on the table and see what happens.”
Note: The Mavericks return to San Antonio for Game 7 of their first-round playoff series against the Spurs on Sunday. The series is tied at 3-3. Game 7 will air nationally on ABC and locally on TXA 21 at 2:30 p.m. CT.