How it happened: The Mavs made a miraculous comeback but couldn’t complete the job.
Dallas had a chance to tie the score with 3.9 seconds remaining, but guard Monta Ellis’ layup rolled in and out. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who scored a game-high 23 points off the bench, iced the win by making a pair of free throws.
The Spurs’ lead swelled to 20 less than three minutes into the third quarter after San Antonio stormed out of halftime with an 8-2 run. The Mavs immediately responded by busting out of a prolonged offensive funk with a 14-2 run and eventually pulled even with 6:23 remaining in the game.
Dallas third-string center DeJuan Blair, who fell out of San Antonio’s rotation last season, provided a massive spark during the Mavs’ comeback. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound banger had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 15 minutes despite a scoreless, one-rebound first half.
However, Blair was ejected with 3:08 remaining when referees ruled after review that his kick to Spurs’ center Tiago Splitter’s head was a hostile act. Blair kicked Splitter when both were on their backs after a Blair foul.
After Ginobili hit the technical free throw to tie it up, Splitter gave the Spurs the lead by sinking both of his shots from the line.
That set up a wild final few minutes for the second consecutive game in the series.
Ellis (20 points) drove to the basket after getting a handoff from Dirk Nowitzki for an and-1 layup with 52 seconds remaining, tying the score with the free throw. However, the Spurs regained the lead for good on the next possession with a 3-pointer by Boris Diaw, who had 17 points off the bench.
What it means: The top-seeded Spurs survived a scare to regain home-court advantage, evening the series at 2-2. The Mavs narrowly missed pulling off the biggest comeback in the franchise's playoff history, which remains a rally from 19 points down to win Game 5 of the 2003 Western Conference finals in San Antonio.
Play of the game: The Spurs’ French Connection hooked up for the go-ahead bucket with 32.9 seconds remaining. Running a pick-and-pop, point guard Tony Parker dished to reserve forward Diaw for a tiebreaking 3-pointer over Nowitzki.
Stat of the night: The Spurs are 53-1 in games they led going into the fourth quarter this season, including 25-0 on the road. The lone loss was by one point to the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 17.