SAN ANTONIO -- During one second-half timeout, Caron Butler stood, wearing his full warm-ups, at the outskirts of the team huddle. After another timeout, Shawn Marion, stuck on the bench himself, said something to Butler and then gave him a playful punch to the arm as if to say hang in there.
The two veterans got a heaping helping of humble pie in Friday's Game 3, 94-90 loss to San Antonio, both benched by coach Rick Carlisle in the second half. Butler got yanked with 2:55 left in the second quarter and never returned, ending his abbreviated night with two points, two rebounds and three turnovers in 15 minutes. Marion, who helped to limit Spurs guard Manu Ginobili to two points in the first half, got the hook barely more than three minutes into the third quarter and again less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Butler did not talk to reporters after the loss that put the Spurs ahead in the series, 2-1, but Marion did. He expressed a mixture of frustration and confusion, but also optimism that the Mavericks can close ranks and even the series in Sunday's Game 4 back in San Antonio.
"We got to stay focused and keep playing and stay together, but I can't control my minutes," Marion said. "I'm not the one doing the subbing. The minutes, when I'm in there, I'm going to play hard and that's all I can control."
Marion, who averaged 12 points on 50.8 percent shooting and 31.8 minutes during the regular seaso while lauded as the team's top defender, is down to just 23.3 minutes in three playoff games. He played less than 17 minutes in Game 3 and is averaging 7.3 points on 34.6 percent shooting. After Game 3, Marion said he feels as though he's being pulled "in and out of the [of the lineup] like a rag doll."
"Me personally, I'm not able to get in a rhythm," Marion said. "The one rhythm I got going, I got it and then I didn't go back in. It was hard. It's hard to catch a rhythm."
Asked if Carlisle told him why he was twice quickly pulled from Game 3, Marion said, "Nope. You ask him. You go ask him."
Carlisle said he went with a three-guard lineup that was playing more aggressively on the offensive end.
"I want to play, definitely, I don't want to sit on the damn bench, but what can I do?" Marion said. "I'm not making the substitutions. We're still confident. We've got help each other the best way we can."