SAN ANTONIO -- Dirk Nowitzki lobbied as hard as anyone to bring Jason Kidd to Dallas to run the show for the Mavericks. After a third disappointing postseason with the ball in the hands of the 16-year point guard, Nowitzki was too good a teammate -- or maybe just too tired -- to give a critical review.
The bruised, beaten 7-footer danced around questions about Kidd's underachievments in this disastrous series. Nowitzki chose to laud the deserving San Antonio Spurs and their tenacious defense, one that had driven coach Gregg Popovich nuts throughout the regular season with its mediocrity.
"Obviously, J-Kidd is a player that's very good in the open court, and besides really the last game [Game 5], we never really got into it, we never got into the open court," Nowitzki said. "You can beat that team if you score in the 100s. If you keep it in the 80s, that's what they want to play, that's what they're good at. They did a good job of really taking our running game away, and that's why they won the series."
Thursday's 97-87 loss was the fourth game of the six in which the Mavs failed to top 90 points. After the Game 1 victory, Kidd, 37, was overmatched by Tony Parker, soon to turn 28, and then was woefully mismatched against second-year guard George Hill, the series' X factor who turns 24 next week.
Kidd finished the series with a stat line that wouldn't cut it for a starting point guard on almost any team without Kobe Bryant or LeBron James: 8.0 points on 30.4 percent shooting and 7.0 assists. It could be argued that Kidd's game isn't measured by stats, but in this series, stats don't lie.
"They paid a lot of attention to him. They were making him work offensively," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He'd become such a positive offensive factor for us the last two months of the season that they really started treating him like a scorer -- running him and all our shooters off the 3-point line, making them make plays. It was tough. It was challenging."
Kidd wasn't alone in being taken out of the series. Jason Terry struggled through his second consecutive postseason of awful shooting. He finished with two points Thursday, unable to get any of his seven shots to go down until he dropped a floater midway through the fourth quarter. Terry shot 37.7 percent in the series.
"We didn't invent anything. It's just basketball," Popovich said. "Our guys do deserve credit for chasing those guys around and being so disciplined on them."
With 6:13 to go in the second quarter and the Mavs, down 35-16, in desperation mode, Carlisle subbed Rodrigue Beaubois for Terry. The rookie brought an instant spark, and his 16 points helped the Mavs get back into the game -- Dallas even took a 57-56 lead with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
But when it came to the fourth, Carlisle stuck with the veteran Terry, one of the best late-game performers in the league despite his inability in this series to get hot for any duration. Eventually, Carlisle had seen enough and, needing a miracle, pulled Terry for Beaubois with 2:44 left and the Spurs leading 89-81.
"I gave Jet a shot to see what he could do," Carlisle said. "We were hanging right in there for a good portion of that time."
Kidd showered, dressed and exited the locker room Thursday night faster than after almost any game this season. He didn't talk to reporters after the last two games. Meanwhile, Terry sat dejectedly at his locker and told it straight.
"You look at the stats. It didn't happen for me at all," Terry said. "We lose as a team. It ain't one person that is going to factor into the loss.
"Individually, I take a lot of it on my shoulders. They look for me to come off and provide that spark off the bench. This series, it wasn't there."
Perhaps all the close games the Mavs played and the big minutes required of Kidd throughout the season took their toll. But this series will likely serve as another eye-opener for Nowitzki, who finished with 33 points and topped 30 points in three games.
Kidd is locked in for two more years at more than $8 million a season. His three playoff runs with the Mavs are the three worst of his 14 postseasons and include just one series win. Terry will earn more than $10 million next season, and his shooting percentages in the past two postseasons -- both below 39 percent -- are his worst.
Nowitzki left the podium after Game 6 answering one final question regarding his intentions this summer. He can opt of his contract, which would pay him $21.5 million in his final season. Rather surprisingly, he left his options open.
He's earned $124 million in his 12 seasons in Dallas. But perhaps he's looking around after first-round exits in three of the past four seasons and thinking his championship window is closing. The Kidd experiment is a failure. The Mavs have reshaped the roster, and will probably have to do so again this summer.
Perhaps even the loyal Dirk could have a change of heart.