I went to the American Airlines Center Monday night and was reminded why we love sports: because for three heart-stopping, adrenalin-pumping hours, we forgot about the first ex-wife, the second mortgage and the four tires that need rotating. Mavs 123, Spurs 118 had everything. Villains (Tim Duncan) setting traps. Turncoats (Michael Finley) throwing daggers. And heroes (Jason Terry) saving the day. The Mavs, up 3-1 in the series, gave up a combined 221 points the last two games and somehow came away with two wins. Terry was the catalyst, hitting impossible, high-arcing jumpers over Duncan that belonged in a game of H-O-R-S-E instead of Game 4 of the Western Conference semis. But he had help. Lots of it.
It came from Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 28 points on one leg. From Erick Dampier, who forced Duncan into a tough, long hook shot that could've tied the series at the end of regulation. From Devin Harris, who once raced end-to-end so fast TNT's cameras literally couldn't keep up with him. From the fans--an AAC-record 20,969 of them--who rattled Tony Parker into two crucial free-throw misses late in overtime with noise and Eva Longoria props. And from the refs (assist to Mark Cuban).
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Whatever the reason--overdue respect or reaction to Cuban's relentless complaining--the Mavs are getting the good calls in this series. In Game 3 Duncan fouled out on a phantom call when Dirk sprained his ankle and fell. And in last night's Game 4, Bruce Bowen was called for a touch foul on Dirk with the Mavs down two and eight seconds left. Those two fouls aren't called, and it could be Spurs 3, Mavs 1. It's been that close. And, yeah, it's been that good. --Richie Whitt