SAN ANTONIO -- Dirk Nowitzki did everything in his power to give the Mavericks the series lead with a big hand from J.J. Barea and a little push from Jason Terry, but a total gag effort from the rest of the lineup left Dallas falling short, 94-90, to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3.
Dallas has major questions facing it as Sunday's Game 4 becomes desperation time.
Nowitzki finished with 35 points, 23 in the second half, as he made shots from everywhere with Spurs draped all over him. But, when the rest of the starting lineup combines for 16 points and Barea is needed to play 32 minutes, it is more than amazing that the Mavs were even in spitting distance of the Spurs in the final minutes.
Had the Mavs somehow pulled out the victory, perhaps they could quickly put the pieces back together at Saturday's practice. But, with a loss, who knows how Caron Butler's second-half benching and Shawn Marion's virtual benching will affect their psyches and the general mindset of a Mavs team that just can't seem to outrun its mental shortcomings, no matter the coach, no matter the roster.
The Spurs, meanwhile, got steady play from their three stars. Tim Duncan finished with 25 points, Tony Parker had 23 and Manu Ginobili had a big second half, even with a busted nose, to finish with 15 points and seven assists. And George Hill stepped up with 17 points.
Here's how little help Nowitzki had. Jason Kidd, ineffective for a second consecutive game, had seven points and five assists and was ripped apart defensively. He is 2-of-13 from the field in the last two games. Butler had two points in the first half before being sent to the end of the bench. Marion had seven points in 16 minutes and sat on the bench for all but five minutes of the second half.
While the clamor for Roddy Beaubois grew louder (and he got his five minutes and sat back down), it was again Barea coming off the bench and injecting some life into this strange team. He finished with 14 points and four assists. Terry had 17 points, but again went ice cold in the fourth quarter. He hit a 3-pointer to end a 4-0 Spurs spurt to start the fourth, but then didn't hit a shot until there were just 33 second left.