Western Conference Playoffs First Round - Game 2
(7) San Antonio 102, (2) Dallas 88
Kick back, basketball junkies. Find an easy chair, your favorite beverage, and some tasty snacks. Make yourself comfortable. The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are going to play a very long, drawn-out series in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
That's the almost-certain reality after Game 2 of this series on Wednesday night, won by the visiting Spurs in convincing fashion. The No. 7 seed in the West silenced a capacity crowd at the American Airlines Center by knocking down threes and getting a vintage performance from its superstar.
With a 24-second shot clock, there's little room for teams to be indecisive in the NBA. Players need to learn, at the professional level, to shoot the ball with unquestioned confidence and conviction. On Wednesday in Dallas, that's what the combo of Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson did. Ginobili hit 4 of 6 3-pointers to enable San Antonio to shoot over 50 percent behind the arc, while Jefferson - a bust during the 2010 regular season - took a very big step toward personal redemption by hitting 7 of 12 shots in a vital 19-point effort that gave needed ballast to the Spurs' overall attack. With Ginobili sticking shots and Jefferson making effective forays to the goal, the Spurs became a multi-dimensional team which scored 102 points on 83 shot attempts, a very impressive ratio.
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There was one other reason, of course, why the seventh-seeded Spurs toppled the two seed in this all-Texas tilt: Tim Duncan.
The lauded center, one of the most relentlessly consistent players in the history of professional basketball, recorded his 29th playoff game with at least 25 points and 15 rebounds. Duncan went for 25 and 17 on this night, which was impressive enough in its own right. Yet, what made the outing even more spectacular for "TD" is that a number of the shots he hit in the fourth period - precisely when the Mavericks were making a furious charge at the Spurs - came against high-level defense from Dallas's big men, especially Brendan Haywood. Duncan hit a very tough 11-foot leaner just inside the foul line against Haywood to give San Antonio a 93-84 edge with 5:07 remaining in regulation. That huge bucket came less than two minutes after Dallas used a 24-9 run to shave a 20-point deficit to just five. Duncan - as has so often been the case in what will surely be a Hall of Fame career - provided the big momentum-blunting basket that kept an opponent at bay.
The Mavericks were beaten by a better team on Wednesday, but coach Rick Carlisle's club didn't help itself at the offensive end of the floor. Dallas's shooting was simply putrid in this contest. The Mavs got a lot of high-quality looks, open mid-range jumpers that would ordinarily drop. On this night, though, the big guns for the number two seed in the West simply couldn't shoot straight.
Dirk Nowitzki scored a very hollow 24 points because he missed 15 of 24 shots. Teammate Caron Butler provided a brief flurry of activity during the Mavs' big second-half push, but the former Washington Wizard missed 11 of his 17 field goal attempts. Shawn Marion - who has been close to a no-show in this series and has to produce when the scene shifts to San Antonio on Friday night - hit only 2 of 7 shots in a meager six-point performance. Only Jason Terry (9 of 19 field goals, 6 of 6 at the foul line, 27 points) shot the ball with any appreciable degree of consistency for Dallas.
Yes, make yourself at home if you love basketball. This series seems ticketed for at least six games, and quite possibly seven. Two opponents that hate each other with a passion are only going to ratchet up the animosity in the Lone Star State.
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer
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