The San Antonio Spurs fought off a valiant effort from the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal and will go for a 2-0 series lead Wednesday night when the two long-time rivals clash at AT&T Center.
On Sunday afternoon, the Spurs trailed 81-71 with 7:45 to play, but closed the game on a 19-4 run. They finished with a 90-85 victory and a 10-game winning streak against their Texas neighbors.
"Made some stops, that generates offense. We needed it," San Antonio's All- Star guard Tony Parker said of the run.
San Antonio couldn't buy a 3-pointer as Manu Ginobili was the only Spur to convert one in Game 1. He went 3-of-6 from 3-point range, but the Spurs went just 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) as a team. It shot a blistering 43.3 percent (42- of-97) from downtown in four games against Dallas this season.
The difference on Sunday was Tim Duncan. The future Hall of Famer finished with 27 points and seven rebounds.
"We got killed on threes in the first four outings this year," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "We stayed home a little more on 3-point shooters, but you've got to give them something, and Duncan in there is obviously still solid."
Parker posted 21 points, six assists and four rebounds for the top-seeded Spurs, who finished with the NBA's best record at 62-20. Ginobili finished with 17 points and six rebounds, while Kawhi Leonard registered a double- double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Devin Harris led Dallas with 19 points, followed by 11 apiece from Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Brandan Wright. Vince Carter chipped in 10 off the bench.
The late-game run was sparked by, of course, Duncan.
He banked in a turnaround and then put in a runner to begin the surge before Tiago Splitter tied the game at 81-81 with a layup with 4:54 remaining. Consecutive Parker baskets gave the Spurs their first lead since it was 50-49 when there was 8:14 left in the third.
Wright split a pair of foul shots to pull Dallas within 86-82 with 2:05 on the clock, but it never got any closer. Splitter sunk two foul shots at the other end and the Mavericks missed three of their final four shots from the field.
"It's obvious that we did a lot of great things," Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle told the team's website. "We built a lead, but 7 1/2 minutes is a long time in an NBA game and you've got to be able to sustain. We've got to work on getting another lead in Game 2 and then closing."
The Spurs received some good news on Tuesday when Gregg Popovich was named Coach of the Year. He became the third coach to earn the honor three times, joining Pat Riley and Don Nelson.
"I feel very honored for a whole lot of reasons," said Popovich. "First, there were so many coaches that did such a great job this year. To be singled out is pretty humbling.
"When you win an award, it comes down to the players. They've been unbelievable for me. Without their play, diligence and professionalism, I know this wouldn't happen."
Game 3 will be Saturday evening in Dallas.