With 24 seconds left on the clock in Saturday’s Game 3, the Spurs were hoping to have the game’s final possession. After running down the game clock, Manu Ginobili received a high screen from long-time teammate Tim Duncan. Ginobili went left, made contact with Samuel Dalembert (the help defender), and faded slightly while he shot. The ball kissed off the glass, spun around the rim, and fell in to give the San Antonio Spurs a two-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing in-bounds play, Dallas ran Monta Ellis to the top of the key. Despite being open, Jose Calderon decided to let the play materialize instead of throwing it to the hot hand (Ellis finished with 29 points and made several big shots in the fourth quarter to keep the game tight). Vince Carter, who was stacked on top of Dirk Nowitzki, came off a brush screen from Dirk and headed into the corner. Calderon threw the ball to Carter, who set his feet, pump faked, and drained a fade away with Ginobili draped all over him as time expired.
The shot gave the Mavericks a 2-1 series lead, putting them in the driver seat heading into Game 4.
Carter has been a pleasant surprise for the Mavericks this year, serving as a bench scorer and vocal leader. Yes, this is the same Carter who was dubbed a selfish player early in his career; the guy who packed in games and rarely played hurt during his prime. Carter finished with 11 points in Game 3, right around his regular-season average of 11.9 points per game.
This series goes to show how tight the Western Conference was all season long. Dallas, the eight seed, finished with 49 wins, which would have been enough to make them the third seed in the East. Anyone who has watched this series can tell that there isn’t much separating these two teams from a talent standpoint, and although San Antonio has much more depth, that doesn’t mean much in the postseason because of shortened rotations.
I still believe that the Spurs will come out on top, but the Mavericks are a very dangerous team. With veteran leadership, star power, and great coaching, the Mavs can match the Spurs on just about every level.