Spurs escape with win, series sweep despite late Mavs surge


San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been asked time and time again about his thoughts on all-star Tim Duncan’s play.

Duncan is enjoying one of his best seasons in years so Popovich has always had a quote ready to go, such as ‘Tim’s being doing this all year, he’s been very solid for us’ or something similar.

Tonight, after Duncan lead the Spurs to a 92-91 win over the Dallas Mavericks with a 28 point, 19 rebound effort, Popovich summed it up as best he could before talking about how he thought the Mavericks played better tonight.

“Tim played well,” Popovich said.

When asked a similar question, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t do much better.

“He’s a great player,” Carlisle added “He’s gonna play well either way.”

Duncan was dominant early, scoring on jumpers and snatching away rebounds to give the Spurs an early 9-2 rebounding advantage, six of which were Duncan’s while the Spurs went on an 8-2 run. The Mavs would bounce back in the first but still found themselves behind at the end of the quarter.

Both teams traded baskets in the second quarter, but two consecutive trips to the line by Dirk Nowitzki evened the score, capping an 8-0 Dallas run. The Spurs answered with an 8-0 run of their own to close out the half, highlighted by a Kawhi Leonard slam and a pair of three-pointers by Danny Green to give the Spurs a nine-point lead entering the locker room.

The Mavs slowly chipped away at the lead in the third quarter but Duncan provided an answer for the Spurs, contributing 12 third-quarter points on six-of-six from the field in 10 minutes, while all the other starters aside from Cory Joseph went scoreless.

The Spurs and Mavs traded rallies in the fourth, with Vince Carter kickstarting an 8-0 run with a three-pointer. The Mavs took their first lead of the game on a three-pointer, giving them the one-point advantage with 7:38 remaining before Gary Neal answered back and stepped up with an outside jumper of his own, good enough for three of his eight third-quarter points.

“Without the points he gave us coming off the bench, we would be in big trouble,” Popovich said.

The Spurs had and eight point lead after Kawhi Leonard knocked down a corner three, but the Mavs would follow with seven unanswered points. With possession of the ball and seconds left on the clock, the Mavs got the ball to Vince Carter, whose three-point attempt rimmed out, giving the Spurs their 50th win of the season and a season sweep of the Mavericks.

“It looked good. Vince has been unbelievable clutch for us since he got here,” Nowitzki said of the Mavs’ final possession. “We still had six seconds to get a good look in. It was a good look. We had the chance.”

With the win tonight, the Spurs have also clinched a spot in the playoffs, which is the 16th straight season the Spurs have been involved in postseason play.

However, despite the win, sweep and clinch, the Spurs will likely have plenty to work on, as Popovich said he thought the Mavs played and executed better and said his team continued to “play in the mud.”

“I’m not sure what to attribute it to, but it’s a fact. It shows at the defensive end and it shows a pretty dead offense at the offensive end,” Popovich said. “We were really fortunate to win this game.”

Aside from Duncan’s big night, Neal chipped in with 16 points off the bench, and Leonard had 12 points and six rebounds. Nowitzki lead Dallas with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The Spurs are home for the next three games, starting with a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.