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Duncan ejected as Spurs lose to Mavericks

Apr 16, 2007 - 12:40 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan even looked calm when drawing an ejection.

After Duncan departed late in the third quarter, the San Antonio Spurs collapsed offensively in the final period en route to a 91-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in a matchup of Western Conference heavyweights.

A late-season matchup between two of the NBA's best teams was not expected to have much intensity since the Mavs (66-14) already have locked up the league's best record and the Spurs (58-22) entered with slim hopes of catching Phoenix for the second seed.

However, the contest resembled last season's classic seven-game series in the conference semifinals won by the Mavericks.

The normally stoic Duncan brought his intensity, drawing an ejection after picking up two technical fouls in a 76-second span late in the third quarter. His second came from the bench with 1:04 left in the period, surprising the superstar who was smiling at official Joey Crawford as he was escorted to the locker room.

Duncan pointed toward Crawford's dislike of him as the reason for his ejection.

"Joey has a personal problem with me and I can't do anything about that," Duncan said. "I said three words to him the entire night and the other words where when he gave me technicals, so obviously he's got a personal problem with me.

"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?' I didn't say anything to him anyway. If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?'"

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chose his words carefully on Duncan's situation with Crawford.

"My feelings will be shared privately with the league," Popovich said.

Without their leader, the Spurs managed just 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting in the fourth quarter. They missed their final nine shots, going the last 6:33 without a basket.

"Down the stretch we missed a couple of open threes that would have changed the game, turned it over once or twice, and that was the name of the game down the stretch," Popovich said.

"When Duncan's not there, you are still talking about a very good basketball team," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "That's why they've won 58 games and have a chance to win 60 because they are not one-dimensional. It's not all about Duncan even though we know he is the big focal point of their team."

Duncan managed 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists. While Duncan was not around, superstar Dirk Nowitzki was there when it counted for the Mavs. His jumper with 1:15 remaining brought the Mavs even at 86-86.

Nowitzki finished with 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting in 36 minutes.

"You know, you say games don't mean much but obviously, if you play against a great rival like San Antonio is, it always gets heated and I thought the atmosphere was great," Nowitzki said. On the ensuing possession for the Spurs, Josh Howard knocked the ball away from Manu Ginobili, leading to Greg Buckner's layup that gave the Mavs the lead for good.

"We hung in there, dug in there and had a pretty decent fourth quarter, especially defensively, and tried to make it as difficult as possible on them," Johnson said.

After Jerry Stackhouse split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to give the Mavs an 89-86 lead, Brent Barry threw up an airball on the other end.

Devin Harris added 21 points, Howard 15 and Stackhouse 14 for the Mavs, who won three of the four regular-season meetings from the Spurs.

"It definitely had a little bit of a playoff atmosphere," Harris said. "Refs were letting us play a little bit."

Dallas, which closes the regular season with two road games, finished 36-5 at home.

Parker scored 23 points and Ginobili 16 for San Antonio, which led 55-52 at halftime and 76-72 entering the final period.

With the loss, San Antonio secured the third seed and will meet Denver in the first round of the playoffs.