Spurs big winners, Mavs lose Nowitzki

DALLAS (AP) -- There are moments that can define not only a game,
but an entire playoff series.

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks can only hope that one of
them didn't happen in the fourth quarter Friday night.

As Tim Duncan was leading San Antonio on a 12-0 run to open the
final quarter, Nowitzki went down with a sprained left knee. The
Spurs controlled the game the rest of the way to defeat Dallas
96-83 and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.

"The news is not good,'' Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "His
knee is very sore. I don't expect he'll play (in Game 4) and I'm
not sure if he'll play in this series. We should not take a gamble
or a chance on Dirk Nowitzki. I told Dirk he must feel he's totally
100 percent for me to play him again this series.''

Duncan scored 14 of his 34 points in a lopsided fourth quarter
that sent the fans streaming to the exits with more than 3 minutes
left. Duncan had 24 rebounds, and Tony Parker scored 29 points for
the Spurs.

It was a stunningly quick turn of events in a game that began
with lead referee Dan Crawford joking to the team captains that he
would let them call their own fouls, playground style.

Dallas had a few good moments -- mostly in the second quarter --
before having an extremely bad one midway through the fourth when
Nowitzki banged his left knee against Manu Ginobili of the Spurs
while going for a rebound.

Nowitzki's knee buckled, and he stayed down for about two
minutes before being helped off the floor, unable to put any weight
on his leg.

"It happened really quick,'' Nowitzki said. "My knee was
hurting pretty bad. I've never had a knee injury before, so really
the pain is new to me. I couldn't move my leg anymore.''

The last time there was such a scene at the American Airlines
Center, it was Chris Webber of Sacramento being carried off the
court with a knee injury during Game 2 of the second round. He
never returned to that series, and the Mavs can only hope the same
does not happen to Nowitzki.

The initial diagnosis was a sprain, and Nowitzki, who left the
arena on crutches, was to undergo an MRI on Saturday. Game 4 is
Sunday night.

"I hope he's not out, because he's a great player and you want
everyone having all their horses,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "But we can't change, we can't play differently.''

Duncan surpassed 30 points for the fourth consecutive game, and
San Antonio outrebounded Dallas 59-36. Popovich said the biggest
factor was San Antonio's defensive intensity in the second half.

Nick Van Exel led Dallas with 16 points, Nowitzki had 15 and
Raja Bell added 14. Steve Nash was outplayed by the 21-year-old
Parker, who scored 19 in the third quarter and finished 13-for-23
from the field.

"Pop told me at halftime he wanted be to be more aggressive and
help Timmy out,'' Parker said.

Duncan scored the first five points of the fourth quarter on a
three-point play and a dunk, then fed Parker with a pretty
give-and-go pass for a layup that gave the Spurs a 76-66 lead and
caused Nelson to call a timeout.

But the first possession for Dallas after that resulted in a
3-second violation, and Parker banked in a straightway jump shot
moments later. Nowitzki was hurt two plays later, and Duncan
completed a three-point play after Nowitzki was carried off with
the arena suddenly silent.

"It's a bad break, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow,''
Nowitzki said. "This series is still a long ways from being

If Nowitzki is out for any extended time, the Mavs will be
without an All-Star who was their leading scorer and rebounder.

"I think we have enough soldiers in this locker room to put us
in position to win, but it'll be tougher,'' Mavericks guard Michael
Finley said.

Before tipoff, Crawford told the captains: "Hey guys, you
remember the playground days? Call your own fouls? Call your own
fouls tonight, we're gonna trust you guys, OK?''

Crawford quickly told the players he was only joking.

But it immediately became clear that the refs were going to let
the teams play, and only six fouls were whistled in a first quarter
that ended in an 18-18 tie. It was the first time in the series
that Dallas did not face a deficit after the opening 12 minutes.

Van Exel was the catalyst as the Mavericks made the game's first
big push, dropping in three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points in the
second quarter as Dallas opened a 46-38 halftime lead. San Antonio
went almost 12 minutes bridging the first two quarters without
getting a point from anyone other than Stephen Jackson.

San Antonio came back in the third, scoring 19 of the first 29
points in the quarter to retake the lead. Parker was phenomenal in
the period, using his speed to create openings and finding his
outside touch. The last two of his 19 points in the quarter came
from the line, giving San Antonio a 69-66 lead entering the

Game notes
Jackson did not arrive at the arena until less than an hour
before tipoff after staying behind at the team hotel to be treated
for flu-like symptoms and a sore throat. ... Mavs C Shawn Bradley
twisted his right knee in the third quarter and didn't return.
Third-string center Evan Eschmeyer was unavailable because of a
knee injury sustained during practice earlier in the week. ...
Popovich had a cut on his forehead that he got while gardening. "I
bumped it against my Mexican lime tree,''' he said. ... TNT
broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy would not comment on his interest in the
Cleveland and Houston coaching vacancies.

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