Dirk Nowitzki made his first six shots of the fourth quarter. Tony Parker scored more points in the final period than he had the rest of the game combined.
It was the type of clutch play you’d expect couple former NBA Finals MVPs.
But nobody had a better fourth quarter than… Tiago Splitter?
The Spurs center had nine points on four shots, six rebounds and four assists in the fourth quarter alone, helping San Antonio to a 109-103 Game 5 win Wednesday and 3-2 series lead over the Mavericks.
The Spurs led from the middle of the second quarter on, but the advantage rarely hit double digits and never felt safe. After all, the Mavericks erased a five-point deficit in the final two minutes of their Game 3 win and came back from 20 down before dropping Game 4.
But by holding off Dallas tonight, San Antonio can close the series Friday and avoid being the first franchise to lose twice as a No. 1 seed to a No. 8 seed.
Wednesday, Parker led the the Spurs to an earlier 21-8 lead, but as they’ve done all series, the Mavericks came back.
For a while, the teams’ top reserves – neither deemed as worthy as Jamal Crawford for Sixth Man of the Year – dictated the game. Vince Carter finished with 28 points, his most in any game since January of last year and most in a playoff game since 2007. Manu Ginobili (19 points, five assists and three steals) did his damage, too.
Then, it seemed the stars were taking over.
Tim Duncan (16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks) molded into his usual steady self, and Parker (23 points on 23 shots, five assists and one turnover) was uneven but bigger in the fourth than he’d been all series.
Dirk Nowitzki is trending in the right direction, too. He’s scored 11, 16, 18, 19 and now 26 points – including 14 in the fourth quarter Wednesday – in the series’ five games
Yet, Splitter (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists overall) was the one everywhere when it counted most. His interior scoring, passing from the high post and defense on Nowitzki in the latter stages of the fourth really helped the Spurs preserve the win.
This wasn’t the finest basketball either team has produce, but both teams also had something to do with making the other uncomfortable. In a series featuring two of the NBA’s best coaches in Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle and deep rosters full veterans, a little unexpected lift can come from anywhere – and go a long way.
In the case of Splitter, it took San Antonio to the verge of the second round.
The Spurs have had trouble keeping Dallas down this whole series, and it still won’t be easy. But, no question, San Antonio has finally found the series control many assumed it would have achieved more easily.