If Wednesday night’s Game 5 was a round of golf, the Mavericks kept scrambling for up-and-down pars from tricky positions while the Spurs effortlessly meandered to two-putt tap-ins.
In the end the Mavs played hard, but it was too easy for the Spurs.
With DeJuan Blair suspended and Samuel Dalembert limited with a sprained ankle, Dallas’ interior was simply inferior as the Spurs’ pick-and-rolled their way to 54 points in the paint of a 109-103 victory. If it wasn’t Tony Parker for uncontested layups it was Tigao Splitter totally outplaying Brandon Wright to the tune of 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Mavs again played hard and, for the most part, well. But high-degree-of-difficulty shots don’t consistently beat layups in the lane.
Dallas got what it desperately needed – a big game from Dirk Nowitzki. But it wasn’t enough. Dirk got free with screens set by teammates and by stubbornly dribbling and driving into the lane. He scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, his best playoff game since the Mavs clinched their only title back in June of 2011 in Miami.
But it was his missed wide-open 17-footer that buried their chances.
After Vince Carter’s 3-pointer cut San Antonio’s lead to 98-94 with three minutes remaining, Dallas had possession and a chance to make things very interesting. Dirk got the ball in the corner, made a deft fake and dribble to open space and … front-rimmed the 17-footer that would’ve made it 98-96.
At the other end Parker beat the shot clock with a back-breaking 3-pointer.
“I would obviously like to have that one back there on the wing when I faked Splitter, to make it a two-point game,” Nowitzki said at the podium after the game. “That was a big shot. I have to make that one.”
Can’t blame Dirk for this one. Nor Carter, who scored 28. The Mavs need more offensive production from Shawn Marion and better defense in the paint but at some point you might just have to admit that the Spurs are better.
And that time might arrive Friday night in Dallas for Game 6.
In this series the Mavs have a breakout game from Dirk. A miracle from Carter. They’ve rallied from a 20-point deficit. They’ve built double-digit leads in San Antonio’s gym – twice. They’ve played harder than the No. 1 seed.
And what do they have to show for it? A chance to force Game 7.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.