4-15-07 -- There's no such thing as a meaningless game when the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs play.
Although their meeting Sunday had little bearing on the playoff picture, the Western Conference powers played a tense, emotional game that saw bodies flying, emotions overheating, Tim Duncan getting ejected and the Mavericks beating the Spurs 91-86 Sunday to end San Antonio's six-game winning streak.
The loss -- only the second in the Spurs' past 14 games -- locks them into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They have only themselves to blame, going without a field goal the last 6:32, missing nine straight shots, and not scoring any points over the last 4:17. Duncan was lost late in the third quarter after getting two technical fouls 1:16 apart, the second coming from the bench.
Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris each scored 21 points in a game the Mavericks may have used as their dress rehearsal for the playoffs. They won for the 66th time this season, tying the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for ninth-best in league history, and finished 36-5 at home.
Because the only intrigue left to the season is who Dallas will face in the first round and when, coach Avery Johnson rested various top players over the past five games. Not this time, even though he said before the game that he'd be watching players' minutes. Fans realized Dallas was going all out when Nowitzki returned from a long rest early in the fourth quarter, cheering loudly.
His jumper off a rebound tied the game at 86 with 1:15 left. On San Antonio's next series, Manu Ginobili drove past Greg Buckner but Josh Howard was there to strip the ball from him. Buckner took it all the way for a layup and the lead with 50 seconds to go.
Bruce Bowen missed a jumper from the left side on the Spurs' next trip and Jerry Stackhouse made one of two free throws. With San Antonio down by 3, long-distance ace Brent Barry got the ball but had to put up a long, wild heave. Harris made a pair of free throws to cap the last possible meeting between the teams until the Western Conference finals.
Dallas won the season series 3-1. This was the first game won by the home team.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points. Duncan had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists before he was tossed. Ginobili also scored 16.
Howard had 15 points and six rebounds. Stackhouse, playing only for the second time in five games, scored 14.
After a slow start that lived down to expectations, the teams traded big runs in the second quarter and the rivalry was back on. By the third quarter, the intensity was reminiscent of their thrilling second-round playoff series last year, which Dallas won in overtime of Game 7 in San Antonio.
Dallas' Jason Terry and Bowen got offsetting technicals for jawing at each other less than two minutes into the second half. There were hard fouls both ways, then Duncan got a technical with 2:20 left in the quarter for arguing about an offensive foul against him. He went to the bench soon after, then was tossed from there because of something he said. He'd been laughing about a call that went against San Antonio.
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