Two minutes and 13 seconds. That's all it took for the San Antonio Spurs to turn a two-point lead against the Dallas Mavericks into a 16-point lead with nearly nine minutes remaining in the second half.
After George Hill and Jason Terry traded jumpers to open the second quarter, Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili nailed two three-pointers each, and Antonio McDyess added a jumper during the 14-0 run. Meanwhile, Terry missed a shot near the basket and had another blocked by McDyess. McDyess also rejected a short jumper by J.J. Barea, who committed an offensive foul during the stretch.
With Dirk Nowitzki on the sideline still recovering from a sprained right knee suffered in Monday's win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Caron Butler led all scorers with 30 points, and Jason Kidd had his first triple-double of the season with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. But it wasn't enough as the Mavs fell 99-93 last night at the American Airlines Center.
Despite outscoring San Antonio by 17 points with Tony Parker on the floor and holding Tim Duncan to just nine shots, Dallas shot just 42.7 percent on the night and managed only four offensive rebounds. Throughout most of the game, the Mavs were content to retreat down the floor after shots, denying themselves opportunities for second-chance points. And Jason Terry failed to step up in Nowitzki's absence, hitting just three of his 16 shots and shooting 1-for-11 from below the three-point arc.
Dallas cut the lead to 50-46 as the second half was wrapping up, but another three from Ginobili extended the lead to seven points. The Mavs failed to close the gap any closer than within five points of the Spurs, even with a 29-point effort in the fourth quarter.
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Down 10 points with less than eight minutes left in the game, Brian Cardinal, who started in place of Nowitzki, hit his third three-pointer to put the score at 81-74 with 7:26 remaining. However, the Mavs failed to score their next basket until an alley-oop from Kidd to Tyson Chandler nearly three minutes later.
Dallas shot well from three-point range (10-for-23) and had nine steals, but the 14-0 run by the Spurs in the second quarter, lazy play on the offensive glass, Terry's struggles and Dirk's absence proved to be too much to overcome. By the time Terry finally heated up and hit two threes with under a minute left in the game, it was too late. Steve Novak's three as the clock expired was also meaningless.
While the Spurs weren't at the top of their game either and opened the door for a Mavs' upset without Nowitzki, the loss shouldn't lead to much concern. I'm sure Rick Carlisle will be showing the team clips from the dozens of times they failed to crash the boards or took an ill-advised shot. Carlisle also must work on a way to get the ball in the hands of Tyson Chandler more often, especially when Nowitzki's not in the game. Chandler hit all four of his shots and was open down low several times when his teammates chose instead to shoot long jumpers.
The Mavs (24-7) fell to three-and-a-half games behind the Spurs (28-4) in the Southwest Division and now have the third-best record in the NBA behind San Antonio and the Boston Celtics. Dallas begins a short road trip on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated the Mavs 103-99 on December 13, and they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. The next match-up against the Spurs is January 14 in San Antonio.