SAN ANTONIO -- It has been a series most foul.
And Wednesday night it was a tempest from the Dallas Mavericks that helped lead to their downfall -- along with 32 points and 15 rebounds from Tim Duncan -- as the San Antonio Spurs evened up the Western Conference finals 1-1 with a 119-106 victory. Game Three is at Dallas on Friday night.
"It was finally nice to do the things we did to keep the lead at the end," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the Spurs saw a 19-point fourth-quarter lead cut to eight before pulling away.
The big stage was set for more drama Wednesday after the two teams combined in Game One for 98 free throws. Curiosity had been raised about the mostly perimeter jump shooting Mavericks taking 50 free throws. This time the Spurs were 37-of-45 from the line while the Mavs were 20-of-22.
"For a jump-shooting team, I thought that was pretty amazing," Popovich said.
In the first half Wednesday, Dallas coach Don Nelson drew two technicals and was ejected, assistant coach Del Harris was ejected and Dirk Nowitzki and Nick Van Exel were each whistled for technical fouls. The Mavericks were down just 15-14 midway through the first quarter when Nowitzki, who finished with 23 points, drew his third foul.
The Spurs then went on an 18-2 run, putting the Mavericks almost out of the game and Nelson definitely out of the game.
Nelson stared down referee Joey Crawford with 2:46 left in the first quarter and San Antonio leading, 26-16. Crawford called a technical foul, and then Nelson yelled, "I'm not going anywhere."
Crawford assessed him a second technical foul and ejected him from the game.
"I was expecting him to do something clever and creative," Popovich said. "He really was creative tonight."
It was a Rose by another other name, Malik, who recovered from a kick in the head in Game One to help the Spurs. He not only drew Nowitzki's third foul, but his energy and 7-of-7 free-throw shooting helped the Spurs take a 35-24 lead after one quarter.
"I felt like I'd let my teammates down in Game One," said Rose, who had 25 points and six rebounds and was 15-of-18 on free throws for the game.
The Spurs went on a 12-2 run to open the second quarter as the game got away from the Mavericks.
"This was ridiculous," said Van Exel, who finished with 13 points.
"We've got to keep our composure way better," Nowitzki said. "We got aggravated way too much and complained way too much about every call."
The Mavericks, with a three-pointer by Michael Finley, who led the Mavs with 29 points, and three-point plays from Raef LaFrantz and Nick Van Exel, sliced a 19-point fourth-quarter lead to 105-97 with five minutes remaining.
But Duncan hit a jumper, scored inside on a difficult pass and then blocked a Nowitzki shot that led to a Tony Parker fast-break layup.
James hits jackpot before lottery
LeBron James has always idolized Michael Jordan. Now the high school star will begin his NBA career just like Mike, only with a lot more money.
James agreed to a deal with Nike worth more than $90 million, the Associated Press learned today.
James, the high school star expected to be the No. 1 pick in next month's draft, agreed to terms on the largest shoe endorsement deal ever, choosing Nike over Adidas and Reebok.
Which team will pick him will be decided tonight when the LeBron James the NBA draft lottery starts at 8 (Ch. 7). All 13 teams that missed the playoffs are hoping to land thephenom from Akron, Ohio.
Denver and Cleveland have the best chance of winning the lottery.
Pistons face must-win situation on road
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Detroit Pistons must beat the New Jersey Nets at Continental Airlines Arena tonight at 8:30 (Ch. 7) to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We're in a hole, but we have to bounce back and just keep fighting," said coach Rick Carlisle.