Wednesday , May , 10 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Dallas has come to play

(Sports Network) – Dallas earned a big win over the top-seeded San Antonio
Spurs in Game 2 of its Western Conference semifinals series. Dallas’ victory
evened the best-of-seven set at a game apiece.

All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, forward Josh Howard and guard Devin Harris came up big
in Game 2 for the fourth-seeded Mavericks, who collected a 113-91 victory over
the Spurs at the AT&T Center. Howard finished with a team-high 27 points and
nine rebounds, while Nowitzki netted 21 a pulled down nine boards.

“It was a great game,” said Howard after Game 2’s victory. “We just wanted to
cut down on our mistakes, get back to Mavs basketball, and that’s running. It
was a great finish for us. Me, I was the same old Josh. Whatever I can do to
help my team win, if that means score 20 points, if that means get rebounds,
then that is what I’ll do.”

Harris, who started four games for the Mavs during the regular season, made
his first-career start of the postseason in Game 2 against the Spurs. He ended
with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists in 32-plus minutes of action.
The Wisconsin product, who was selected by the Washington Wizards in the first
round (fifth overall) of the 2004 NBA Draft and then had his draft rights
traded with Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner to the Mavericks for
Antawn Jamison in June 2004, was 7-for-12 from the field.

“He’s (Harris) been big for us,” said Nowitzki. “He’s so athletic and can get
to the rim. He is a great finisher and tonight he hit a couple of big in
between shots. He’s also another ball-handler to have out there on the floor
and it makes it tough for them to defend our pick and roll.”

Stackhouse contributed 19 points off the bench, while Jason Terry scored 11
and handed out three assists for the Mavericks, who are 0-2 in playoff series
against the Spurs. San Antonio knocked out Dallas in five contests in the 2001
semis and defeated the Mavericks in six games in the 2003 conference finals.

Dallas outrebounded the Spurs, 39-34, and committed just six turnovers in the
victory. The Mavericks, who made 46.2 percent (6-of-13) of their attempts from
beyond the arc, held San Antonio to 45.5 percent (30-for-66) from the floor
and forced the Spurs into committing 14 turnovers.

“We were not flawless tonight, no matter what the stat sheet or scoreboard
says,” said Dallas head coach Avery Johnson. “We still have room to improve.
We are not twenty points better than the Spurs. They are still the champions
and we are just trying to grind out the series.”

Tim Duncan, who registered a game-high 31 points and 13 rebounds during San
Antonio’s 87-85 victory in Game 1, led the Spurs with 28 points and nine
boards in the second game of the set. He was 8-of-10 from the field and 12-
for-14 from the charity stripe.

“He (Duncan) was great,” said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich after Game
2’s loss. “He’s playing Tim Duncan playoff basketball. It’s unfortunate he
didn’t get a lot of help, but it’s because of the way Dallas played. Their
defense was excellent.”

Winning on the road against the Spurs in the postseason was huge for the
confidence of the Mavericks, who will host Games 3 and 4 at American Airlines
Center. They can grab control of the series if they are able to take care of
business at home. After a tough two-point loss in Game 1, it was imperative
that Dallas come back strong in Game 2 and go home with the series knotted at

“You don’t want the Spurs to have two games on you,” said Johnson. “I don’t
know if any team is that good.”

The Mavericks, who have reached the conference finals twice in franchise
history, accomplished what they had to in San Antonio. They now have a great
chance to show their fans and the rest of the NBA that they can knock off the
defending champs in a best-of-seven series. Dallas can get one giant step
closer towards representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals with a
win over the Spurs.