by Peter Walsh
San Antonio led by 10 heading into the fourth quarter when Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter got hot. The two combined to go 6-11 from the field and hit three 3-pointers while the Spurs faltered down the stretch, missing a ton of shots and committing turnovers as the Mavs put a scare into the West’s best team. But, with under three minutes to go, Manu Ginobili drove the line, drew defenders and kicked it to Kawhi Leonard for a corner 3 to put the Spurs back up eight. Vince Carter’s 3 cut the lead back down to three and after the Mavs held the Spurs scoreless over the next minute, Nowitzki hit a elbow jumper to cut the deficit to one. Dallas again held the Mavs scoreless on the next possession and gave themselves a chance to win, but Carter’s 26-foot shot at the buzzer drew iron and the Mavs playoff hopes took a serious hit. Tim Duncan finished with 28 points and 19 boards and Gary Neal scored 16 off the bench. Dirk scored 21 and grabbed 11 boards and Carter scored 10.
The Knicks got off to a great start, shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half and led by as many as 13. But without Melo, STAT and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks fell apart in the second half and Portland pounced. The Blazers ended the second quarter on a 13-0 run and kept it rolling in the third quarter, taking a 16-point lead into the fourth as the Knicks shot 5-27 in the quarter. J.R. Smith kept the Knicks in it by scoring 18 in the fourth as they cut the deficit to four, but the Blazers regained control with a 15-2 run to close out the game. Raymond Felton’s return to PDX was grim as he was harassed by the Portland fans the entire game and finished with 11 points on 4-12 shooting. Smith led the Knicks with 33 points. Dame Lillard scored 26 points and dropped 10 dimes and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and grabbed 10 boards.