Sunday , May , 14 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Mavs hang on to take series lead; Nowitzki hurt

Dallas, TX (Sports Network) – Dirk Nowitzki hurt his right ankle late in the
fourth quarter, but hit two free throws with 7.9 seconds left as Dallas
edged San Antonio, 104-103, in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal
series.

Nowitzki had 27 points and 15 rebounds for the Mavericks, who took a 2-1 lead
in the best-of-seven series. Nowitzki rolled his right ankle with 1:05
remaining after stepping on the foot of Spurs forward Tim Duncan, but
returned shortly after and managed to hit the two crucial free throws in the
waning moments to finish 21-of-24 at the line. That offset a 3-of-9
performance from the field for Nowitzki.

Devin Harris played a huge role again as a starter with 24 points for the
Mavericks, and deflected the ball off Manu Ginobili’s knee for a turnover
with 2.5 seconds left.

Jerry Stackhouse missed two foul shots with two seconds left with the final
one an intentional miss by mistake only hitting the backboard. The Spurs, who
were left without a timeout, got a break and inbounded the ball from the side
in their own end. Dallas’ Josh Howard deflected the ball toward the left
corner as time expired.

“It’s easy when you win big and you’re scoring a lot of points,” Dallas head
coach Avery Johnson said. “These are the games I’m really searching for to see
how mentally tough we are. I thought win or lose we did some strong-minded
stuff tonight.”

Duncan had 35 points and 12 boards before fouling out with 65 seconds left.
Ginobili, who didn’t start, hit for 24 points.

As far as the extent of Nowitzki’s injury, he said it’ll take a lot for him to
miss a playoff game. He said he’ll apply ice for the next couple of days to
the ankle.

“Well, it’s up there, but at least I was able to finish the game,” Nowitzki
said. “Obviously it was a big win and for me to miss a playoff game it’s got
to be pretty bad.”

Game 4 is Monday at American Airlines Center.

“It is a must win for us,” Duncan said. “We have to find a way to get it done
and take it back to San Antonio and regain our home court.”

Brent Barry, who started in place of Ginobili, hit a three-pointer to give the
Spurs a 98-95 edge with just over three minutes left.

Nowitzki drove the lane and stepped on Duncan’s right foot before tumbling to
the floor in pain with just over a minute left. Despite the painful grimace,
Nowitzki sank both foul shots for a 100-99 Dallas lead.

“He didn’t fall into me. I didn’t touch him,” Duncan said. “He tried to draw
contact. I moved out of his way. If he stepped on my foot, he stepped on my
foot, but there was zero contact.”

Ginobili banked in a shot, but a Stackhouse basket gave the Mavs the lead
again at 102-101 with 31.4 seconds left.

Ginobili gave San Antonio a 103-102 lead with 21.4 seconds left on a
fall-away shot from the right side.

Stackhouse then missed a jumper beyond the foul line, but Nowitzki, who
had fouled out Duncan on his injury drive, was there for the offensive board
and was fouled with 7.9 seconds left before making the two shots.

Robert Horry then drove to his right for the Spurs, but his hand off to
Ginobili was botched, and the ball bounced back into San Antonio’s end to set
up the final two seconds.

The Spurs decided not to go to Bruce Bowen, who was being guarded by a hurt
Nowitzki down the stretch.

“If they would’ve attacked me, we would’ve been in trouble,” Nowitzki said. “I
was able to stay on the court and be a factor.”

Dallas led by as many as 12 points in the opening quarter before settling for
a 27-18 advantage after 12 minutes.

A basket by Marquis Daniels extended Dallas to a 53-40 cushion, but the Spurs
scored the final eight points of the half to get within five.

The Mavs sustained an advantage throughout the entire third quarter, leading
by as many as 11. Ginobili made two free throws in the closing seconds to get
his team within 73-69 going into the fourth.

Bowen’s slam with under six minutes left finally boosted the Spurs ahead at
86-85. The game remained tight until the end.

Game Notes

Nowitzki’s 21 free throws made and 24 attempted are the most by a Dallas
player in franchise playoff history…Tony Parker had 15 points for the
Spurs…Jason Terry added 19 points, Howard scored 12 and Stackhouse 10 for
Dallas, which went 39-of-50 at the foul line.

DAL SAN