Mavs Finish Off Defending Champion Spurs
Monday, May 22, 2006; 11:28 PM
SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks had procrastinated long enough against their in-state rivals.
A 3-1 series lead over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, squandered. A 20-point lead in Game 7, dried up.
Then, in overtime, it was finally time for Dirk Nowitzki and his new collection of Dallas teammates to get over the San Antonio hurdle.
The Mavericks beat the Spurs 119-111 Monday night on the strength of 37 points from Nowitzki and 27 from Jason Terry, who was suspended for Game 6 for punching former Maverick Michael Finley below the belt the game before.
"We battled against a championship team, a team with a lot of guts," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Now we haven't won the championship, but how about those Mavs?"
Tim Duncan scored 41 to lead San Antonio.
"It was a special series," Nowitzki said. "We just believed it was our time to win it."
Dallas advanced to the Western Conference finals for second time in four years, but with almost an entirely new team. Nowitzki is the only remaining starter from the team that was eliminated by the Spurs in 2003.
The Mavericks have never made it to the NBA Finals, but they'll go into the next round as the favorites regardless of whether they play the Suns or the Los Angeles Clippers. That series also was headed to a winner-take-all Game 7 Monday night in Phoenix.
The Spurs won a franchise-record 63 games, grabbed the West's top seed and were thinking this would finally be the year they repeated as champions. Instead, they'll have to try again next year to add to the titles they won in 1999, '03 and '05.
The Mavericks nearly kept pace. They won 60 games in a regular season that was only a hint of their superb meeting in the playoffs.
"This is the best series I've ever played," Duncan said.