The day before Game 5 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs played a game of “just the tip” with the Dallas Mavericks organization and their dedicated fan base by being deliberately vague about Tony Parker’s status. The point guard mimicked a wounded rabbit during Game 4, limping around on the court and favoring his left ankle when he stepped gingerly. Parker watching doe-eyed from the bench would have helped out the Mavericks greatly since the league took action against DeJuan Blair for shaking Tiago Splitter’s head with his foot during the final minutes of Game 4 by suspending him for a single game. However, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich took off his Darth Vader helmet long enough to announce, minutes before tipoff, that Parker would indeed play. Dallas held on to the hope that even though Parker would grace his homecourt, he would be easy to maintain.
But in sports, like in politics, you don’t want to believe everything you hear or read and if you are that gullible, be prepared to grab your ankles and hold on for dear life.
Parker appeared to be walking on air during the first quarter and managed to help put his Spurs up 15-8 within the first few minutes. But it was Sam Dalembert who made Mavericks fans gasp after staying down on the ground, grabbing his right ankle in pain (obviously taking some former ankle advice too literally), after a foul. He was helped to the locker room, giving the already Blair-less Mavs a bitter taste of reality as they completed a method of survival if the worst occurred and Dalembert was down for the count. As San Antonio completely started devouring Dallas’ defense, Dalembert emerged from the locker room and sprinted onto the court, his apparent injury superficial. But his presence couldn’t halt the home team as the Mavs trailed 24-11 with 5:03 left in the first (Parker led with 10 points). A 15-3 run at the close of the quarter gave Dallas a much-needed boost in order to bring them within one point of their rivals.
The second quarter became a cat and mouse game, with the Mavs taking on the role of blind mice as they lethargically attempted to take on San Antonio’s offense, but kept unwisely leaving Manu Ginobili open to make insane shots. Dallas managed to tie the game 37-37 with 7:30 left in the half. Vince Carter came off the bench for the Mavericks and handed his team 13 points right from the get-go, giving the ailing team a push in the right direction – but it wasn’t enough. Mavericks would head into the locker room trailing by nine points.
Twitter blew up in the third quarter as odd foul calls were getting thrown all over the place and fell everywhere, EXCEPT for on the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki was cited on defense for phantom plays by the refs, but the latter refused to acknowledge obvious hard fouls made on Dirk whenever he was on offense. Dallas was behind 82-73 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. The Mavericks couldn’t figure out how to put a stop to the Spurs’ pick-and-roll, and simply watched the ball swoosh in from an open pocket pass to either Tim Duncan or Splitter. Nowitzki managed to get hot, putting up 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting, but it was a little too late. San Antonio would take Game 5, 106-103, pulling ahead in the series 3-2.
Despite the knife cutting ridiculously hard on Wednesday night, Mavericks’ fans aren’t too worried or walking out onto a ledge yet. The Mavs looked strong in their refusal to lie down and die – even within the final seconds of the game. With a very angry Blair back on the court in front of the home crowd at American Airlines Center on Friday, the Spurs should be a little worried that the Mavs aren’t about to go down without a bloody fight.