Saturday , May , 20 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Heart of a champion; Spurs force Game 7

Dallas, TX (Sports Network) – San Antonio made all of the plays down the
stretch in a true team effort and the absence of Dallas guard Jason Terry
played large, as the defending world champion Spurs forced a deciding Game 7
with a 91-86 victory over the Mavericks in their Western Conference semifinal
series at American Airlines Center.

Manu Ginobili scored a game-high 30 points, including a pair of free throws
with 15.2 ticks left that extended San Antonio’s lead to 89-86. The Spurs, who
finished third from the bottom in free throws made during the regular season,
converted all 15 attempts from the charity stripe in the second half.

Tim Duncan scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds while Michael
Finley added 16 points for San Antonio, which displayed its uncanny ability to
get the crucial stops and convert the pressure shots in a playoff atmosphere.

The Spurs now run with all of the momentum back to the River City for Game 7
at the AT&T Center on Monday.

It’s going to be another great game. The Mavs are going to be in our home,
fans are going to help us, and we’re going to have a lot of energy,” said
Spurs guard Tony Parker. “So hopefully we can get a win and it will be a great
series.”

The Mavericks will walk there after failing to capitalize on a Game 6 in front
of a raucous home crowd. Dirk Nowitzki poured in 26 points and grabbed a
franchise playoff-high 21 rebounds while Josh Howard contributed 17 points for
Dallas, which has lost six straight Game 6s.

The Western Conference will showcase a pair of Game 7s on Monday, as the Los
Angeles Clippers will attempt to make their first-ever conference finals
against Phoenix in the Valley of the Sun.

Dallas looked lost on the offensive end in the fourth quarter without Terry,
who was suspended one game for punching Finley in the waning seconds of Game
5. Guards Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris combined to shoot 7-of-29 from the
floor.

Without Terry, San Antonio focused on Nowitzki in the closing seconds, and the
forward missed a game-tying three with 6.9 seconds left before Parker iced
the contest with two free throws.

Like almost every game in this series, the fourth quarter became a slow-down,
half-court game based solely on execution.

A Duncan jumper pushed San Antonio to a 76-73 lead with 7:26 on the clock, but
Dallas eventually claimed the edge at 81-80 on a pull-up jumper by Harris with
3:39 left.

Like champions always do, San Antonio picked itself up off the mat and
delivered the closing blows.

Parker, who looked lost offensively and a step slow defensively throughout the
contest, came through with a jumper to hand the Spurs an 82-81 lead with 3:24
remaining.

Finley then drained a basket from the left baseline off an unselfish pass from
Ginobili to extend the advantage to 85-82 with 2:45 left.

Harris drained his second jumper in just over one minute to again pull the
Mavericks within one, but the Wisconsin product was called for using his lead
right arm to push off on the next possession when Dallas had a chance to
retake the lead.

Duncan capitalized with a short turnaround jumper to open an 87-84 lead then
Nowitzki converted a reserve layup with 17 seconds left to again make it a
one-point game, 87-86.

Ginobili cooly sank a pair of free throws with 15.2 seconds left, and Dallas
looked tight under pressure on its ensuing possession. Nowitzki ended up
forcing a contested, desperation three and Parker grabbed the rebound and was
fouled.

The guard’s two free throws with 5.5 ticks left made it a two-possession game
and sent the series back to San Antonio.

“We’re going to strap it up and play hard,” said Dallas head coach Avery
Johnson. “Hopefully the players can get out there and decide it on the court
and whoever’s the best team wins.”

Early foul trouble saddled the Spurs’ aggressiveness on the defense end.
Duncan picked up his second foul with 4:07 remaining in the first quarter and
Dallas took advantage.

The lead grew to 25-17 on a pair of free throws by Howard, but San Antonio
tallied the final three points of the quarter.

San Antonio pulled within 30-29 in the second quarter before Dallas used a
quick 8-2 run to open a seven-point edge. Dallas maintained that advantage for
most of the period and took a 47-41 lead into the half.

Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 13 points and Ginobili led all scorers with 17
points in the opening 24 minutes. The Mavericks almost took a nine-point edge
into the locker room, but Marquis Daniels’ supposed buzzer-beating three was
waved off after further review.

The Spurs came out of the gates strong in the second half, using an 8-0 burst
to square the contest at 49-49. Duncan donated five of the points, including a
layup to tie the game with 9:08 left.

The game remained tight for the rest of the quarter, with two Ginobili free
throws taking the game into the final 12 minutes tied at 67-67.

Game Notes

The Spurs finished 35-of-39 from the charity stripe…The Mavericks committed
29 fouls…Dallas has never lost a playoff series when it led 3-1…Stackhouse
and Keith Van Horn each scored 10 points…Parker made only 3-of-15 shots from
the floor…The Spurs shot 43.3 percent from the floor to Dallas’ 38.6
percent…Neither team led by double digits at any point of the game…San
Antonio has never come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.

DAL SAN