At the end of Game 3, the Mavericks now have a one game lead over the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs after Vince Carter killed the Spurs with a last second dagger from the corner.
The Mavericks were led by Monta Ellis, who had 29 points, 3 assists, and 3 three pointers. Dirk Nowitzki had 18 on 7-13 shooting, and Samuel Dalembert was huge with his first double-double since 2008. The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan who had 22, and Tony Parker who had 19.
This game was very strange, at first, in that it was not strange at all. Game 1 and 2 were electrifying and exciting, largely because the Mavericks completely changed up their defensive gameplan in order to bother San Antonio, and it worked. What was so weird, is that in Game 3, these Mavericks looked a lot like regular season Mavericks, and a lot less than "playoff Mavericks."
And yet, the plan worked out.
Rather than only switching excessively, as they did in Game 1 and 2, the Mavericks started sending lots of extra help to every Spurs player, instead of trusting the switching players to cover their mark (which led to lots of open shots in the paint, but few to no open threes). The extra help allowed the Spurs to find their open players and play a lot like the Spurs that we're familiar with.
On the other hand, the Mavs maintained a lead from the end of the first quarter, though the rest of the game. Despite going away from the thing that got them to this point in the first place, the Mavs were succeeding.
True to form, the first quarter was unlike every first quarter of this series so far: the Mavs were blazing hot, and so were the Spurs. The entire first half was more like a footrace than basketball. It seemed like this might be a bad thing, like the Mavericks would inevitably be outgunned in an offensive challenge, but that just wasn't the case.
The Mavericks and Spurs just continued to trade buckets for the entire first half, and the Mavericks ended the half with a five point lead, 59-54.
If the first half was a blazing foot race, the second half was...a really slow foot race. Both teams were still running and gunning, but the quarters seemed to take forever. Fouls were being called everywhere, and while neither teams played great offense, they still continued to trade buckets.
The Spurs made up some ground going into the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks ended the third up by 3, 77-74.
The fourth quarter was like every other Dallas fourth quarter this season. The Mavericks started playing frantically, frenetically: not well enough to seal away the win, and not badly enough to lose the game outright.
Like always, Dallas played with our heartstrings like sadistic kittens.
The Mavericks kept their lead until there were 2 minutes left in the game, at which point San Antonio went on a mini-run, punctuated by a Kawhi Leonard 3 pointer to put San Antonio up 5 points.
However, MONTA CONTINUED TO HAVE IT ALL, and he hit 2 huge jumpers, including an and-1, and the Mavericks found themselves tied, at 102-102.
But of course, it would not be a Mavericks game if they took that run from Monta and Dirk and ran with it. Instead, Manu hit a quick layup from Tim Duncan to put the Spurs up by 2.
Samuel "Clutch" Dalembert came to the rescue, though, with two huge free throws to tie the game at 104.
Not to be denied, Boris "The Land Whale" Diaw hit a massive jumper to put the Spurs up 2 again, only to have MONTA ELLIS HAVE MORE OF IT ALL to tie the game at 106, with 24 seconds left in the game. The Spurs had the ball for the last play.
Unfortunately, Manu Ginobili, still a legend -- a terrible, awful, horrible legend -- and he hit a huge layup on a great contest from Samuel Dalembert to put the Spurs up by 2 with only 1.7 seconds left.
On the last play of regulation, VINCE VINCED! HE VINCED ALL OVER THE FLOOR! HE RAN TO THE CORNER AND DRILLED THE GODDAMN FADEAWAY THREE AND THE MAVS WONNNNNN!!!! THEY'RE LEADING THE SPURS BECAUSE VINCE IS STILL HALF MAN HALF AMAZING!
WHAT THE HELL THAT WAS INCREDIBLE!!