Mavs' close win solidifies Spurs' No. 3 seed for playoffs

DALLAS -- Losing a tense, physical, emotional game to their

top rival and being forced to settle for the third seed in the

Western Conference was bad enough for Tim Duncan and the San

Antonio Spurs.

Duncan vs. Dirk

Dirk Nowitzki
Tim Duncan got ejected from Sunday's game with two technicals, but he has not had the statistical edge in the four games this season against Dirk Nowitzki.

Tim Duncan
Dirk Nowitzki
FG pct
FT pct

Even worse: Duncan is convinced official Joey Crawford is out to

get him, with a brawl possibly needed to settle things.

Crawford hit Duncan with two technical fouls just 1:16 apart

late in the third quarter of San Antonio's 91-86 loss to the Dallas

Mavericks on Sunday. The second came while he was laughing on the

bench and meant an automatic ejection, just the second of his

nine-year career.

"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want

to fight?"' Duncan said. "If he wants to fight, we can fight. I

don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I

have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do

you want to fight?"'

The Spurs sorely missed their top player down the stretch,

failing to score a basket over the last 6:32 while allowing a 9-0

run to end the game. The loss ended their hopes of catching Phoenix

for the No. 2 seed and home-court advantage if they meet in the

second round.

While this was a thrilling game between Western Conference

powers, the story of the day turned out to be Duncan vs. Crawford.

"He came into the game with a personal vendetta against me,"

said Duncan, who had 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two

blocks in his limited action. "It had to be because I didn't do

anything the entire game. I said three words to him and the three

words were, 'I got fouled' on a shot. ... That's all I said to him

the entire game."

Crawford disagreed, saying that "he was complaining the whole


Elias Says

Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks prevailed over the Spurs in a battle of NBA heavyweights. They entered Sunday's contest with a combined 123 wins this season (Dallas 65, San Antonio 58). There were only four other regular-season games in NBA history in which the opposing teams had combined for at least that many victories: the Lakers vs. Milwaukee on March 17, 1972 (124); Boston vs. Philadelphia on March 29, 1981 (123); Miami vs. Chicago on April 16, 1997 (128); and Chicago vs. New York on April 19, 1997 (125).

• Read more Elias Says.

"And then he went over to the bench and he was over there doing

the same stuff behind our back," Crawford said. "I hit him with

one (technical) and he kept going over there, and I look over there

and he's still complaining. So I threw him out."

Crawford spoke to a pool reporter before Duncan spoke to the

media. Asked about Duncan not thinking he deserved to be tossed,

Crawford said: "That's his opinion. He said nothing when he was

walking off the court and he called me a piece of (expletive). Is

that nothing?"

San Antonio had won six straight and was on a 12-1 roll. The

only loss came against Indiana -- another game that Crawford worked

and another game that he rang up a T on Duncan.

"I kind of imagine it stemmed from that," Duncan said. "I

don't have a problem with Joey. Obviously he's got a problem with


Teammate Bruce Bowen, who also got a technical from Crawford in

the third quarter, couldn't believe his superstar teammate was

tossed, especially for something so mild.

"Do I think it was deserved? No," Bowen said. "For a former

MVP of the league, a guy that doesn't curse out the officials like

I hear some of the other guys cursing out the officials, I think it

was unfortunate that he was dealt this blow."

Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "My beliefs will be shared

privately, not with (reporters)."

Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris each scored 21 points in a game

the Mavericks may have used as their dress rehearsal for the

playoffs. They won for the 66th time this season, tying the 1970-71

Milwaukee Bucks for ninth-best in league history. They also sealed

their home record at 36-5, tying the best in franchise history.

Because the only intrigue left to the season is who Dallas will

face in the first round and when, coach Avery Johnson rested

various top players over the past five games. Not this time, even

though he said before the game that he'd be watching players'

minutes. Fans realized Dallas was going all out when Nowitzki

returned from a long rest early in the fourth quarter, cheering


Part of the motivation was that the Mavericks wanted to bounce

back from a lackluster home loss to Utah.

"We didn't want to lose two in a row at home so we went for

it," Nowitzki said. "We kept on fighting to win the game."

His jumper off a rebound tied the game at 86 with 1:15 left. On

San Antonio's next series, Manu Ginobili drove past Greg Buckner

but Josh Howard was there to strip the ball. Buckner took it all

the way for a layup and the lead with 50 seconds to go.

Bowen missed a jumper from the left side on the Spurs' next trip

and Jerry Stackhouse made one of two free throws. With San Antonio

down by 3, long-distance ace Brent Barry got the ball but had to

put up a long, wild heave. Harris made a pair of free throws to cap

the last possible meeting between the teams until the Western

Conference finals.

The Mavericks knew they dodged a break by avoiding Duncan the

last 13-plus minutes.

"It was a big momentum shift," Dallas' Jason Terry said of the

ejection. "They needed him down the stretch. They needed him to go


Dallas won the season series 3-1, taking the last three. This

was the first game won by the home team.

Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points. Ginobili scored 16,

but the Spurs scored their fewest points since March 17. They had

scored at least 109 the previous four games.

Howard had 15 points and six rebounds. Stackhouse, playing only

for the second time in five games, scored 14.

Game Notes
Dallas center Erick Dampier missed his third straight game

with a shoulder injury. ... San Antonio has 58 wins with two games

left. The Spurs are trying to reach 60 for the fourth time and

third in five years. ... Dallas finished the regular season with

234 consecutive sellouts. They drew a crowd of 20,444, some of whom

were returning hours later for an NHL playoff game between the

Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks.