SAN ANTONIO — Two weeks into the NBA playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs finally produced a performance befitting a team that often dismissed opponents with ease while accumulating the league’s best record during the regular season.
Guard Tony Parker scored 32 points and the Spurs defeated the Dallas Mavericks 119-96 Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series.
The Spurs advance to face the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, who upset the Houston Rockets in a six-game series.
San Antonio was 62-20 during the regular season, three games better than the team closest in pursuit, Oklahoma City. Along the way the Spurs won a franchise regular season record 19 straight games.
But the Spurs struggled with Dallas, the outcome in five of the first six games having been decided in the final minute. The only blowout was a 113-92 Dallas victory in Game 2.
Then came Sunday…
“Today we got hit by a tidal wave,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re the best of the best.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “This was one of our best games of the year.
The series was more difficult for San Antonio than pundits seemed to anticipate against a No. 8 seed. Popovich said Carlisle used strategy that made life difficult for the Spurs.
“It kept many of us up night after night trying to figure those guys out,” Popovich said. “Rick did a great job with his game plan. The coaches confounded us. The players were great.”
Guard Manu Ginobili supplemented Parker with 20 points. Guard Danny Green added 16, one more than forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points. Guard Devin Harris scored 17.
Parker averaged 15.5 points in the first four games of the series and 25.7 in the last three. He said the Mavericks were able to eliminate the Spurs’ renowned ball movement and 3-point shooting, forcing him to shoot more.
“It was different for me, the first part of the series and the second part of the series,” Parker said. “The first part, we were playing Spurs basketball — move the ball like we did all season long. But Dallas just tried to make me a jump shooter. The last three games I was very aggressive.”
San Antonio led 68-46 at halftime after matching a franchise playoff record for field-goal accuracy during a half — 68.4 percent.
Dallas helped the Spurs’ cause, and their shooting percentage, by committing nine turnovers in the half. San Antonio turned them into 19 points.
Parker led the way with 24 points, converting 9 of 12 shots, a mixture of mid-range jumpers and forays to the basket against bigger, slower Mavericks who had the misfortune of guarding him in Dallas’ switching defense.
Ginobili had a big half as well, producing 11 points, four steals and four assists. Ginobili boosted the Spurs with four points on one possession in the first quarter, making a free throw after Carlisle was hit with a technical foul, and following up with a 3-point basket.
Duncan scored 12 in the half, hitting six of seven shots.
When the half was over, the Spurs’ so called Big Three — Parker, Ginobili and Duncan — had outscored the entire Dallas roster 47-36.
Carlisle, trailing by 22 at the half, opted for a small lineup to start the third quarter — Nowitzki and four guards, including reserves Harris and Vince Carter. That strategy worked initially. Dallas cut the deficit to 14 four minutes into the period thanks, primarily, to eight points by Harris.
Then Popovich countered with smaller lineup, replacing Duncan with Ginobili. The Spurs opened a 19-point lead over the next four minutes, and Popovich then reverted to a traditional lineup.
Harris said the Mavs did not respond quickly enough after the slow start.
“To come out the way we did and get knocked back on our heels like that, with a team as experienced as the Spurs, we have to come out swinging,” Harris said. “I felt like we just didn’t do that.”
NOTES: Spurs G Danny Green hit his first four shots Sunday, extending his streak to 13 in a row during the last three games. … This series was not the first time the Mavericks and Spurs played a Game 7 in San Antonio. Dallas defeated San Antonio here in overtime to win the 2006 Western Conference semifinals. The Mavs advanced to the NBA Finals, losing the championship to Miami. … The officials handed out two technical fouls in the first quarter, to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and San Antonio G Tony Parker. Parker said something to Dallas C DeJuan Blair, a former Spurs’ teammate, after driving by him for a layup. Blair then received a flagrant-1 foul in the second quarter when he hit Spurs G Manu Ginobili in the face. Dallas F Jae Crowder received a flagrant-1 in the third quarter for a shot to Parker’s head.
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