SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tim Duncan's biggest contribution of the
fourth quarter came when it counted most.
Duncan's only field goal of the fourth period was an 18-foot
jumper over Dirk Nowitzki with two seconds left to lift the San
Antonio Spurs to an 89-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on
Saturday in a showdown of Midwest Division leaders.
The Spurs moved within a half-game of the division-leading
Mavericks, and have an easier schedule down the stretch.
Dallas (52-23) has seven games remaining, five against
playoff-bound teams. San Antonio (52-24) has six left, three
against teams heading to the postseason.
Duncan led all scorers with 33 points, but scored just 11 points
in the second half. The game-winning shot was his only field goal
in the final period.
"I've been having some really horrible second halves lately,"
he said. "That shot was huge for me."
Nowitzki, who finished with 26 points and 21 rebounds,
second-guessed his defensive tactics on the final play.
"I probably should have played him closer and made him drive,"
San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said the win was a matter of
simply hanging on as Dallas charged back from a nine-point deficit
in the last three minutes.
"We were fortunate enough to have the ball last," Popovich
Van Exel questioned the officiating, pointing at the Spurs'
45-19 advantage in foul shots.
"That big a difference is ridiculous," Van Exel said.
Just as in the first three meetings between the teams, the
outcome was decided at the foul line at the end.
Van Exel made a running jumper and was fouled on the play. He
made the free throw, pulling Dallas within three points, 80-77,
with about two minutes left.
Bowen scored for San Antonio. Van Exel made a 3-pointer that was
matched by Ferry, making it 85-80 with 45 seconds left.
The Mavs failed to score on their next possession, and Bowen was
fouled while going for a rebound. He missed both free throws with
30 seconds left.
Van Exel then made a runner in the lane, cutting San Antonio's
lead to three. Tony Parker was fouled on the inbounds play and
converted one free throw for the Spurs.
On Dallas' next trip down, Van Exel was fouled while shooting a
3-pointer. He made all three at the line with 15 seconds left as
the Mavericks closed within 86-85.
Duncan made one of two free throws and Nowitzki hit a jumper
that tied the score at 87 with eight seconds remaining before
Duncan hit the game-winner.
Mavericks point guard Steve Nash, who is averaging 19 points and
eight assists, left the game at halftime with a stomach ailment. He
was scoreless with two assists in 18 minutes.
The Spurs made their first four shots in jumping out to a 8-0
lead before Nowitzki hit a turnaround jumper at 9:59 for Dallas'
San Antonio's defensive pressure proved troublesome for the Mavs
early. But Finley pulled Dallas within one, 23-22, late in the
first by scoring 12 points in less than five minutes.
Dallas went ahead 31-29 a runner by Van Exel before Daniels took
over. He scored 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the quarter and
the Spurs used a 16-6 run to build a 10-point advantage by the
Duncan secured his league-leading 62nd double-double of the
season early with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
In the first three San Antonio-Dallas games each team
scored more than 100 points, and the games were decided by a total
of eight points. ... San Antonio has won 10 straight at the
Alamodome. ... Mavs' starting forward Adrian Griffin did not dress
due to a right ankle sprain sustained in Thursday's win over the
Clippers. ... Saturday's attendance was 34,739, the sixth time this
season the Spurs have played in front of a crowd of 30,000 or more.