Thursday April 22nd, 2010

DALLAS -- The Spurs claimed home-court advantage with an inspired 102-88 win in Game 2 Wednesday over the second-seeded Mavericks.

• What it means: The Spurs remain credible contenders around their big three of Tim Duncan (25 points and 17 rebounds), Manu Ginobili (23 points) and Tony Parker off the bench (16 points and eight assists). Duncan had been relatively quiet, but with the Mavs clinging within 89-84, Duncan responded by scoring San Antonio's next eight points to earn a lead of 97-84 with less than four minutes remaining. "Every day I got off this year helps,'' said Duncan of his days off toward the end of the season. "I'm feeling a lot better and I'm feeling pretty energized.'' That is not what the Mavs want to hear.

• The Mavs' cold night. Dallas missed 14 of its first 16 shots and Dirk Nowitzki (24 points on 24 shots) was benched in the third minute with two fouls. "We blew three coverages the first three plays of the game,'' said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. "We were digging ourselves out of a hole from there.'' But the Spurs had something to do with that after committing too many costly turnovers and fouls in Game 1. "We just played sharper than we did the other night,'' said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, "and by that I mean not fouling and taking care of the ball.''

The newcomers come through. After difficult "rookie'' years in San Antonio, veterans Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess proved to be strong acquisitions after all. Jefferson (19 points) went 6-of-7 for 13 points in the second quarter as the Spurs ran out to a 58-46 lead. "He was the difference in the game, very aggressive,'' said Duncan. McDyess' defense on Nowitzki -- following his 36 points (12-of-14 shooting) in Game 1 -- limited him to one three-point attempt. "Dice did an excellent job trying to stay away from fouls and making every shot he took tough,'' said Duncan. He added, "This team we felt was built better for the playoffs, and we were excited and anxious to get this started.''

• And yet Dallas had a chance. After Ginobili led the Spurs to an 80-60 lead in the back end of the third, San Antonio went almost three minutes without hitting the rim as the Mavs sliced a dozen points off their deficit. But they were never able to cut more into the lead as the Spurs were heartened by holding them off. "The stat that sticks out the most is rebounding, 51-42,'' said Carlisle of the Spurs advantage on the boards, while also noting their 23-9 edge in second-chance points. "When the ball is in the air, it's anybody's ball, and they came up with all of those plays.''

So, now what? "When you are down 0-1, you come out and play a desperate game, which they did,'' said Carlisle. So now he will expect the same kind of frenzied response from his Mavericks in Game 3 at San Antonio on Friday. "It's a big game,'' said Popovich. "But people come back from losses, and they will too. We were very focused and a lot sharper; I would expect that Dallas will come out and be quite sharp on Friday night, and we'll have our hands full.'' Which is to say that this series is on the verge of fulfilling its grand expectations.

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