Johnson to Mavs: Stay away from the punch

DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Avery Johnson has a message for
his team in the wake of Jason Terry getting suspended for punching
San Antonio's Michael Finley between the legs: Don't hit, grab.

"I guess maybe if he would've grabbed him, he wouldn't have
gotten suspended," Johnson said Friday, hours before Dallas faced
the Spurs in Game 6 of their second-round series.

"You grab, you don't get suspended," Johnson said. "But the
rule is clear: You punch, you get suspended.

"So, next time, grab."

The Mavs went into Game 6 without Terry, their second-leading
scorer, but holding a 3-2 lead in the series. Dallas is a victory
from knocking out the reigning champions and advancing to the
conference finals or a loss from having to play Game 7 in San

Johnson's interpretation of the rules is based on facts. During
the first round, Denver's Reggie Evans reached into the shorts of
Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman but didn't miss any time.
He was assessed a $10,000 fine and a flagrant foul penalty two.

"Certainly one clear difference is in the case of Reggie Evans
we didn't have a clear view exactly what happened," Stu Jackson,
the NBA vice president who handles such punishments, said Thursday.
"We understand he reached underneath the player, but you couldn't
see the end result. It's really an apple and an orange."

Terry called the league's decision-making "very inconsistent."

"But that's neither here nor there," he said. "Every
situation is different. ... From a Mavericks perspective, it's not
warranted. But they've got a side, too. It's definitely
disappointing, disheartening."

Terry and Finley jostled with 3.4 seconds left in San Antonio's
98-97 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Terry was on his back
after grabbing a loose ball, then Spurs forward Manu Ginobili
leaned on his waist and put a hand on the ball. Then Finley reached
in and leaned on Terry's head. Replays clearly show Terry
retaliated with an uppercut to Finley's crotch.

"It happened so fast," Terry said. "I wanted to get up,
wanted to free myself."

Terry said he knew he did something, but "didn't know to what

His reaction to the replay? "Wow, I really did get him a little
bit," Terry said.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker said justice was served.

"Jason Terry has been throwing a lot of punches in the
series," Parker said. "He's gotten me so many times with cheap

Terry is averaging 17.9 points per game in the playoffs. He
scored a team-high 32 in Game 4.

Although Terry was the starting point guard all season, Devin
Harris took over that role in Game 2. Terry's minutes at off guard
likely will be shared by Jerry Stackhouse, Marquis Daniels and
Adrian Griffin. Veteran point guard Darrell Armstrong, who was
inactive the last two games with a knee injury, also could be used.

Stackhouse replaced Terry in the starting lineup.

"We believe we have enough players who can step in and make big
plays for us," Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said. "Our bench was big
all year in winning 60 games."

Terry learned about the punishment after practice Thursday. He
apologized to his teammates Friday, calling his discussion with
Johnson the toughest.

"Everybody involved said they got my back," said Terry, who
planned to watch the game from his home.

Dallas is 4-0 without Terry the last two seasons. None of the
foes, however, were the caliber of San Antonio and none of the
games were anywhere near as important.

"You've got to kind of use it as motivation," Harris said.
"There's no point in crying about it. We've been dealt the cards.
Now we have to play them."

Mavs fans likely will respond by booing Finley louder than ever.
They're already been jeering the guy after spending the last nine
years rooting for him.

Dallas released Finley last summer through the NBA's one-time
amnesty clause. He's still collecting his $14.6 million salary from
the Mavs, plus more from the Spurs.

The Terry-Finley story line is the latest in a series filled
with great ones. The best is the most important -- the quality of
the games.

A total of four points separated the teams at the end of
regulation in Games 1, 3, 4 and 5 combined. The home team won each
time. Dallas was a blowout winner of Game 2 in San Antonio after
making Harris a starter.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stirred things up more Thursday night
by referring to San Antonio's "muddy-watered thing they call a

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich initially said he wouldn't "say
something mean about Cuban's highly intelligent, insightful
comments," but couldn't resist.

"After one margarita, I don't know what's in the river," he
said, laughing. "Maybe he should come down and have one. He can
look at life a little bit more maturely."