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Mavericks Collapse in Biggest of Ways

Spurs stage 23-0 run and outscore them, 34-9, in fourth to win, 90-78, and reach NBA Finals.

May 30, 2003|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS — Turned out, it was an impossible dream, after all.

Dallas Maverick Coach Don Nelson, who has tilted at a lot of windmills in his time, had a big one tottering Thursday night with his Mavericks, still without Dirk Nowitzki, leading by 15 points in the third period before Steve Kerr, of all people, led an improbable rally that carried the San Antonio Spurs to a 90-78 victory that gave them the series, 4-2, and sent them into the NBA Finals.

Not that this was the first big shot Kerr had hit, although it had been a while. The last was in 1997, as a member of the Chicago Bulls to clinch the decisive Game 6 against the Utah Jazz.

That time, Michael Jordan told Kerr he'd be coming to him and Kerr said he'd be ready.

This time, Kerr said he didn't say anything because "I was too shocked to be in the game."

Now 37 and a third-string point guard on a team that uses two, Kerr hadn't made a shot all postseason, but he knocked in four Thursday night in as many tries, all three-point baskets.

"I haven't been a difference-maker in a long time," said Kerr. "I wasn't thinking about that at all.

"We were in a zone offense [against the Mavericks' zone defense] and we were struggling. We were frantic. We were making bad passes. We weren't getting to our spots....

"This is one of the best nights of my career. It ranks right up there with anything that happened in Chicago. Just because of the fact I'm 37. I wondered if I'd ever have a moment like this. And one of the things I told myself this year was, I might not have a great year, I might not score a lot of points but there's always a chance to have a moment, just one moment.... "

Not that this was looking like one of them for any of the Spurs.

With Tony Parker ill and scoreless in 13 minutes; Tim Duncan tied up inside the Mavericks' zone and the Spurs in general collapse, the Mavericks led by six points at the half and 15 late in the third quarter.

Of course, as Nelson said later, one more shooter on the floor can mean a lot.,

"We were afraid he [Kerr] was going to get some open looks," said Nelson. "When they had he and [Stephen] Jackson hitting shots, you just can't cover both of them with a good double-team on Duncan....

"If you want to take away their threes, guess who's going to get the ball."

For the Spurs, who had already lost games in this series after blowing 19- and 18-point leads, the turnaround was as spectacular as it was surprising.

Trailing, 71-58, early in the fourth quarter, they went on a 23-0 run, including three three-pointers by Kerr, two by Jackson and one by Manu Ginobili.

In Game 5, the Mavericks won after putting up a 29-10 fourth quarter. In Game 6, the Spurs outscored them, 34-5, to start the fourth quarter and 34-9 in all.

Nelson, still dangling with no assurance he'll return as coach, spoke glowingly of his team ("I've never been more proud.") However, owner Mark Cuban has suggested -- recently -- that Nelson can return if he wants to, and he wants to.

Of course, repeating this season will be a real trick.

"It's going to be hard to get back here," the Mavericks' Nick Van Exel said. "We've got to be real with ourselves....

"Right here was a great opportunity to get to the Finals. L.A.'s going to be good next year. Sacramento's going to be good. San Antonio's going to be good. Minnesota's going to be good, Phoenix is going to be good....

"It's going to be tough to get to this position and we really let it slip away."

They hung on to it as long as they could, but the Spurs tore it from their grasp, even if it was the Spur they were least worried about who did it.

"I thought it was a fitting way for him [Kerr] to end his career," Spur Coach Gregg Popovich said. "But ... he informed me in the locker room we're going to have to take a hard look at an extension before the Finals, or he might not be available."

Parker is expected to be OK by Wednesday's start of the Finals, so Kerr may not get another moment.

On the other hand, ask him. This was enough.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Box Score

*--*

*--*

*--* Spurs 90, Mavericks 78

*--*

*--* SAN ANTONIO Min FG-A FT-A OR-T A P T Bowen...23 0-3 0-0 0-2 4 0 0 Duncan...45 8-20 2-4 3-11 4 2 18 Robinson...16 2-2 3-4 0-5 1 2 7 Jackson...44 8-14 3-3 2-2 3 2 24 TParker...13 0-5 0-0 0-1 1 1 0 Claxton...22 3-8 0-0 0-7 2 3 6 Ginobili...29 3-9 4-4 1-2 4 4 11 Rose...32 5-9 2-6 3-11 3 2 12 Willis...1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Kerr...13 4-4 0-0 0-2 3 1 12 Smith...1 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Ferry...1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

*--*

*--* Totals 33-76 14-21 9-44 25 18 90

*--*

Shooting: Field goals, 43.4%; free throws, 66.7%

Three-point goals: 10-19 (Jackson 5-7, Kerr 4-4, Ginobili 1-4, Duncan 0-1, Smith 0-1, Bowen 0-2). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 18 (18 PTS). Blocked Shots: 5 (Duncan 3, Rose, T.Parker). Turnovers: 17 (Duncan 4, Ginobili 4, Robinson 2, Rose 2, Claxton 2, Bowen, Jackson, T.Parker). Steals: 8 (Jackson 3, Ginobili 2, Duncan, T.Parker, Claxton). Technical Fouls: None.

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