Spurs closeout plans halted by Mavs, Butler

DALLAS – After playing three straight games resulting in a 3-1 lead over the Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs were dead on arrival in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, falling to Dallas 103-81 late Tuesday evening.

ButlerStill recovering from a broken nose in Game 3, Manu Ginobili still managed to start for San Antonio alongside Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, and George Hill. The Mavericks gained the first possession as Dirk Nowitzki made the first shot of the night only to be answered quickly by Ginobili to tie the game 2-2.

Each team seemed to be on their game, consistently scoring early in the first quarter with Duncan and Hill responding with baskets. Hill’s two pointer gave San Antonio its second and last lead of the game at 6-4 before Dallas took charge in a two-minute five-point scoring burst. The Mavericks were allowed as much as a ten-point-lead before the Spurs seemed to make a comeback with Bonner sinking a three-pointer to narrow Dallas’ lead to four. Foreshadowing the rest of the game, turnovers landed San Antonio in trouble early on as the ended the first quarter trailing Dallas, 27-21.

DeJuan Blair tried his best to play aggressively, but found himself back on the bench after four fouls in just six minutes’ playing time. The Mavericks were able to make a 9-2 scoring run to begin the second quarter, until Ginobili was able to add two free throws and a basket to bring the Spurs back within nine points with just under seven minutes left in the half.

The team in silver and black appeared to have a pulse as Tony Parker led the team’s scoring in the last six minutes with eleven points. Reminiscent of the foul on Ginobili that led to his ejection in Game 4, Eduardo Najera fouled Parker with a hand to the face as Parker went for a layup. Hill, Duncan, Jefferson and McDyess also made additions to the scoreboard, the latter showing aggression on the offense by making a slam dunk off of a missed basket by Ginobili. Their attempts were not enough to slam the brakes on the Mavericks’ own offense, as San Antonio turnovers (count’em, seven in the first half) handed Dallas the lead at the half, 53-46.

The Spurs’ serious control problem carried into the second half with a turnover less than 30 seconds into the third quarter. Jefferson was able to make a two-point jumper three minutes in to end a six-point spree by Dallas led by Caron Butler, who ended the game with a career-high 35 points. Fouls sent the Mavericks to the line nine times in the third, where they were able to score sixteen points.

Ian Mahinmi became a major contributor in the third quarter, beginning with a slam dunk off a pass from Parker between Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Just minutes later, Mahinmi caught a pass from Roger Mason for a two-point basket before blocking a Shawn Marion shot – the same shot that Hill was able to turn around for a basket to narrow Dallas’ lead to 24 points. Hill had previously added two baskets earlier in the quarter, but couldn’t save the Spurs, who ended the quarter down 82-64.

No doubt about it, several San Antonio televisions turned off around this point with the knowledge they could catch game six later in the week. This writer forced herself to watch the entire game in order to pass on the news that it was probably worth it to go to bed a little earlier – nothing changed.

The Spurs still lost.

Most likely in an effort to avoid further or possible injury, coach Gregg Popovich decided it was worth resting his experienced players and kept Mahinmi, Blair and rookie Garrett Temple on the court alongside Mason. San Antonio headed home with a 103-81 loss, but still maintains the series lead at 3-2.

The Spurs have a chance to win it all on home court as they tip-off against Dallas on Thursday night at the AT&T Center at 7:00 p.m.

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