Dirk Nowitzki returned after missing four games recovering from knee pain, but it was Jason Terry who carried the Dallas Mavericks through the second half and overtime, scoring a game high 34 points and driving Dallas to a 101-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich relied on his bench to score the entirety of the Spurs final 51 points in the game, covering 19:41 of game time. Popovich rode the bench that had worked hard to erase an 18-point Maverick lead and put the Spurs ahead by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter.
Gary Neal, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, James Anderson and Matt Bonner all played out the game while Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and company sat out. Neal was especially active, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, leading an assault from three point range that showed the bench crew making 7-8 from long range.
The Spurs bench was more active, moved the ball quicker and, most importantly, made their shots where the starters couldn't get as much to fall. At the apex of their run, up nine with five and a half minutes to go, the fatigue of having to make a run of that nature was starting to show.
Dallas, meanwhile, was working Dirk back and, while Nowitzki did collect 13 rebounds in his 37 minutes, his shot was just a bit off, managing only 10 points on 5-14 shooting. The crux of the Mavericks' production, especially in the second half, fell on Terry's shooting touch. Terry outscored his teammates 22-18 in the second half, driving inside to score and making tremendous shots of curl routes around screens.
As time ran down on the game, the Spurs had a chance to put it away, but Splitter missed a free throw that would have put the Spurs up five with 37 seconds to go. After a Rodrigue Beaubois quick two, the Mavs dug in on defense. Neal drove the ball to the hoop, but Beaubois was there to make a play on the ball and Dallas took possession with seven seconds left.
Eschewing a time-out, Terry raced the ball up the court while the crowd got loud. JET ducked underneath a couple of players and rose up on Neal. It's a shot and a place on the floor that anybody who has seen Jason Terry play, in Atlanta or Dallas, could have foresaw. Terry let his jump shot go and saw it swish through the net with 0.5 seconds left, leaving the game to overtime.
Or so you thought. Little did anybody know that in 0.5 seconds you could create 5 minutes of hushed silence, but that's just what Danny Green did. Green took the inbounds pass, spun, and cashed it in for the win. That was the ruling, but on replay review, you could see that just a fraction of a second before the ball left Green's fingers, the light went off. If there had been 0.7 seconds left, Spurs win, but there was 0.5, so overtime and Dallas and all of its fans exhaled.
Even though his crew was gassed, Popovich left his second squad in to try and take out the relieved and comparatively spry Mavericks in the extra period. True enough, the Mavericks got an offensive rebound on the first possession and Vince Carter, who had a solid 22 points, gave Dallas the lead. Anderson answered with a three for the Spurs, but Nowitski shook off some rust and hit a floater to grab the lead back.
Tired or not, the Spurs reached back for one last push. Splitter hit a couple of free throws to give the Spurs the lead for the last time and Danny Green made it a three-point lead with 78 seconds left. Nowitzki answered with a basket, and after Matt Bonner missed an open three, there was Terry scoring his 31st and 32nd points on a pass from Dirk, giving the Mavericks the lead for good.
Down the stretch, the Spurs turned the ball over and Terry knocked down a pair of free throws to make it three points in Dallas' favor. Then it was Neal's turn to make a quick basket, but instead of letting him go, Shawn Marion fouled Neal as the ball went through the hoop, giving San Antonio a chance to tie the game.
Neal, who had been so instrumental in the comeback, bricked the free throw and the Spurs quickly fouled Ian Mahinmi. The Dallas center went to the line with a chance to stretch the lead to three but he missed both free throws and the Spurs called timeout.
One more chance for the battling bench of San Antonio to win the game. Out of the timeout, the ball found Matt Bonner 23 feet from the hoop with his back to the goal. Someone was supposed to be coming to take the ball and likely head to the hoop, but they weren't fast enough and Carter poked the ball free from Bonner's grasp.
As the ball headed out of bounds, Green saved it and instead of running out of bounds himself he ran into the official. While it looked like he may have double dribbled, they played on and Green shot a 27-foot three that clanged off the rim and time expired.