Tuesday , May , 23 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Champs are gone: Mavs eliminate Spurs in OT

San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) – It took five extra minutes but the
defending NBA champions are out of the playoffs, as Jerry Stackhouse hit two
clutch jumpers in overtime to propel Dallas to the Western Conference finals
with a 119-111 victory over San Antonio in the deciding Game 7 of their
semifinal series at the AT&T Center.

The Mavericks get very little time to celebrate, as they will square off
against Phoenix in Game 1 of the conference finals on Wednesday.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points and pulled down 15 rebounds while Jason Terry
added 27 points and six boards for the Mavericks, who advanced to the
conference finals for the third time in franchise history and the first time
since 2003.

Terry played with determination after missing the Game 6 defeat while serving
a one-game suspension for punching Spurs forward Michael Finley in the waning
seconds of Game 5.

Josh Howard donated 18 points and Stackhouse totaled 13 points and six assists
in the victory. The North Carolina product’s second jumper of overtime opened
a 114-108 edge with 1:48 left, and San Antonio never got closer than four
points the rest of the way.

Dallas still has never lost a playoff series after opening a 3-1 lead, and
will begin the quest for its initial trip to the NBA Finals starting on
Wednesday.

“I told Dirk ‘did you see that, it just ran out of the door. That monkey
that’s been on our back for so long, it’s gone.’ I am so proud of this team,”
said Dallas owner Mark Cuban. “This was a team effort to make this happen and
I am proud of every one of these guys.”

Tim Duncan poured in a game-high 41 points and grabbed all 15 of his rebounds
after halftime for San Antonio, which fell to 2-4 in Game 7s and came up short
in its defense of the NBA title.

“This is the best series I’ve ever played. Both teams gave it their all, it
went down to the wire, it was about whether the ball bounced one way or
another and the result is just how it bounced,” said Duncan.

Tony Parker added 24 points and Manu Ginobili contributed 23 points, but both
players disappeared in the final two minutes of overtime.

Overtime was anticlimactic, as the teams traded baskets before Dallas seized
the edge for good, 108-106, on DeSagana Diop’s dunk with 3:32 left. The
pivotal play of the extra session game with 17 seconds left, as the ex-
Maverick Finley missed a three-pointer from the left corner that would have
brought the Spurs within one.

Instead Dallas wrapped up the series at the charity stripe, converting four
consecutive free throws to make the final margin.

“This has been an amazing series. Every game but Game 2 was a battle. A couple
of plays here and there and the games go either way,” said Nowitzki. “This was
a special series. We got a little lucky down the stretch. They made a run, but
we stuck together. We believed it was our time to win this. We kept making big
plays.”

Duncan’s layup closed the deficit to 99-97 with 2:15 left in the fourth, but
Howard drained two free throws to again establish a four-point lead, 101-97,
with 1:57 on the clock.

Finley then received a pass from Duncan and connected on a three to make the
score 101-100 with 1:43 remaining. Duncan tied the contest for the first time
seconds later, making 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 1:08 to play.

Nowitzki missed a contested shot, and Ginobili swished a three to give San
Antonio its first lead, 104-101, with 32.2 ticks on the clock.

Dallas went back to Nowitzki, and the forward delivered with a tough lay-in
while being fouled. The subsequent free throw squared the game at 104-104 with
21.6 seconds left.

Both Ginobili and Duncan missed chances from in close during the waning
seconds, and the game headed for overtime.

Dallas completely owned the opening half, showing no jitters that usually
accompany a team playing Game 7 on the road.

Howard must have felt like he was weighing the Dallas offense down in the
first stanza. The Wake Forest product made 5-of-7 from the floor, but the rest
of the team missed just one shot during a sterling shooting display.

The Mavericks quickly quieted the boisterous home crowd, jumping out to a 9-2
lead behind seven points from Howard. Dallas shot 83.3 percent in the period
and led 37-27 after the first quarter.

The advantage eventually grew to 58-38 on a three-point play by Nowitzki with
3:15 left in the opening half. The Spurs made a late run, scoring nine of the
last 13 points to draw within 64-50.

The champions refused to wither in the face of a significant halftime deficit,
using a 10-2 burst in the third quarter to get back within striking distance.

Ginobili scored the initial five points of the stretch, Duncan converted a
three-point play, and Parker’s jumper brought the Spurs within 76-72 with 3:12
left in the period.

Game Notes

Dallas made 28-of-31 from the charity stripe while San Antonio converted on
33-of-39… Howard, Erick Dampier and Keith Van Horn all fouled out for the
Mavericks…The two teams split their previous 10 meetings this season…San
Antonio knocked Dallas out of the playoffs in 2001 and 2003…Finley
scored 12 points…The Spurs blocked 10 shots.

DAL SAN