NBA: Butler, Haywood keep Mavs from being eliminated
By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer
DALLAS — Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood gave the Dallas Mavericks the energy, toughness and scoring they needed — in other words, everything the Mavs expected when they traded for them a few months ago.
Butler scored a career playoff-best 35 points and had 11 rebounds, and Haywood provided a strong inside presence at both ends in his first start of this postseason, keeping the Mavericks alive by leading them to a 103-81 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night in Game 5 of their first-round series.
The Spurs were outplayed most of the first half, but trailed by only seven at halftime. Dallas didn't let them hang around much longer.
Butler had a layup and a pair of free throws during a 10-0 flurry to open the third quarter. After San Antonio finally answered, Butler came back with a 3-pointer with Tim Duncan charging at him. Soon after, Butler drove right at Duncan; San Antonio's big man got a piece of the ball, but it caromed off the backboard and into the net anyway.
Butler ran away stifling a laugh, while Spurs coach Gregg Popovich began preparing for Game 6 in San Antonio on Thursday night. He pulled Duncan at the next dead ball, figuring rest was more important than trying to overcome a deficit that soon peaked at 22, and eventually hit 26.
"We had a wonderful opportunity tonight," Popovich said. "We gave it away."
The Spurs still lead the series 3-2, giving the veteran club two more chances to get into the second round. Only eight teams have ever blown a 3-1 lead.
Dallas showed a new life from the start, inspired perhaps by Haywood starting instead of Erick Dampier, or just by their now-or-never situation.
San Antonio's only lead was 6-4, and the Mavs followed that with a 12-2 spurt that included opportunistic plays like Jason Kidd slapping a rebound right to Shawn Marion for an easy layup. They ran plays through Haywood, something unheard of when Dampier starts, and Butler was scoring inside, outside and in between.
Butler, Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson were acquired during the All-Star break in a deal that cost Dallas four players and forced owner Mark Cuban to ante up another $30 million. It looked like a great investment when Dallas won 13 straight in February and March, not so much with the Mavs coming into this game having lost three straight and with Butler shooting 38 percent in the series.
Butler made 12-of-24 shots, including 3-of-8 3-pointers, and hit eight free throws. He had 12 points in the first quarter, seven in the second and 11 in the third. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle wasn't as conservative as Popovich and left his starters in until midway through the fourth, so Butler got eight more points in the final period.
"He had a great rhythm going," Carlisle said. "I was really thrilled to see him have a big game like that. ... Caron's always aggressive. I thought his game tonight was a function of not only how well he was playing, but the guys around him had a feel for getting him the ball, creating space for him to drive, that sort of thing."
Haywood had eight points and eight rebounds. He took only three shots, making one — which is one more than Dampier has this series — but he got to the line plenty. However, he made only 6-of-12 free throws.
"It was a decision to change the dynamics a little bit," Carlisle said of the lineup change. "It was a bit of a gut feel. I just felt the time was right to do it. Damp was great about it."
Butler's performance turned Dirk Nowitzki into a sidekick. He had 15 points and nine rebounds. Jason Terry had 12 points, while Marion and Kidd each scored 10. Kidd also had seven assists and seven rebounds.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 18 points. Half of them came during an 11-2 run at the end of the second quarter that gave the Spurs hope of pulling off another throttling third quarter, like they did to win Game 4.
Duncan scored 11 in 24 minutes and Manu Ginobili scored seven in 19 minutes.
Despite facing elimination, the Mavericks spent the last two days insisting everything was fine, that all they had to do was get to a few more loose balls and keep the Spurs from shooting close to 50 percent, as they have all series.
Sure enough, San Antonio made a series-worst 36 percent of its shots (only 27 percent in the second half), with Dallas grabbing 11 more rebounds and committing six fewer turnovers.
Dampier turned out to be Dallas' only player not to play. The backup center was Eddie Najera, who was ejected after only 47 seconds in Game 4 because of a flagrant-two foul on Ginobili.
He lasted 21 minutes this time, but also notched a flagrant-one for a second-quarter whack on Parker. With three flagrant "points" this postseason, his next will draw an automatic one-game suspension. His performance already has won over the fans, earning cries of "Ed-die! Ed-die!" in the second half.
"This series is all about being aggressive, the kind of spirit you bring to it," Carlisle said. "There were plenty of times tonight when our team wasn't necessarily in the right place coverage-wise, but we hard-played our way through it. That's what it takes. We're going to have to continue with this going forward."
NOTES: Ginobili opened the game with a brown, less-noticeable bandage over his broken nose, then went back to a thick white strip of tape in the second half. ... Weird play early in third: On a made free throw by Dallas, San Antonio's Matt Bonner fouled Nowitzki, giving the Mavs one more free throw, which Nowitzki hit. ... Stevenson is nearly clean shaven on his head and face, his off-the-chin beard trimmed to a flat goatee. ... Dallas' Terry wasn't able to repeat as Sixth Man of the Year, but he did finish second to Atlanta's Jamal Crawford.