DALLAS — Monta Ellis wouldn’t let the Dallas Mavericks’ season end. An electrifying second half that included 12 points in a come-from-behind fourth quarter bought the Mavs new life and moved the top-seeded and reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination.
Dallas’ 113-111 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center sets up this breathtaking first-round series for a win-or-go-home Game 7 at San Antonio on Sunday night.
The Spurs led 81-76 after three quarters and were seemingly on their way to methodically putting the series on ice until Dallas switched the momentum with a 16-4 charge to lead 102-94 with 2:55 left in the game.
Trailing 108-105 with less than 30 seconds to go, Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who had an otherwise brilliant fourth quarter with 13 of his 22 points, had his interior pass stolen by former Spurs center DeJuan Blair.
Blair hit one of two free throws to make it a four-point lead and then grabbed his 14th rebound on Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard’s missed jumper. Spurs guards Danny Green and Patty Mills both hit 3-pointers, the last with seven seconds left, to keep their faint hope alive at 113-111.
The Spurs got the ball back with 1.3 seconds left under the Dallas basket after Ellis inexplicably chucked it out of bounds while fleeing Spurs defenders attempting to foul him. The inbounds pass was deflected out near the Spurs bench and Mills’ desperation heave from the top of the arc didn’t draw iron.
Blair returned to the lineup after being suspended for Game 5 and he haunted San Antonio with a hustling 10 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. Dirk Nowitzki started the game 4-for-4 and finished with 22 points on 11-for-20 shooting. Ellis poured in 29 for the second time in this series and was 11-for-22 from the floor.
San Antonio is in jeopardy of exiting the first round as the No. 1 seed for a second time in four seasons. This one would be particularly grueling after last year’s heartbreak loss in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, and returning this season to win a league-best 62 wins. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich took home the league’s Coach of the Year award.
But it will all be for naught if they can’t put away the feisty and relentless Mavs in Sunday’s showdown.
The Spurs trailed by as many as 11 points early on, but six points from 38-year-old Spurs forward Tim Duncan in the opening three minutes of the second half quickly erased the Mavs’ six-point halftime lead and put the Spurs in front 63-62, their first lead since 10-9. San Antonio completed an 11-point swing in the period and took an 81-76 lead into the final quarter.
Duncan was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 points. Forward Tiago Splitter had 19 points, a career playoff high. Manu Ginobili, who averaged 19 points in the first five games, was held to just six.
Dallas got off to the fast start it hoped for after its sluggish beginning to Game 5 in San Antonio. The Mavs led by eight after the first quarter and withheld a Spurs charge in the second quarter behind a strong rebounding effort that netted 12 second-chance points for a 58-52 halftime advantage.
NOTES: Spurs F Tim Duncan passed Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA list for career playoff games with his 217th (he’s third among active players). Oklahoma City G Derek Fisher ranks first among active players and second overall with 244 and Lakers G Kobe Bryant is second among active players and fourth overall with 220. … Mavericks reserve C DeJuan Blair returned to the active roster after serving a one-game suspension in Game 5 for kicking Spurs C Tiago Splitter in the face during the fourth quarter of Game 4. … The Mavs entered Game 6 with a 15-17 record in elimination games and 0-7 all time in best-of-seven playoff series when they trail 3-2. … Spurs G Danny Green’s series high in the first five games was six points. He scored 12 in the first quarter of Game 6.
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