DALLAS (AP) — Richard Jefferson bounded right out of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's doghouse.
Knowing he was among the guys Popovich thought "played like dogs" in the opener, Jefferson scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half to help San Antonio beat the Dallas Mavericks 102-88 in Game 2 on Wednesday night to tie their first-round series at a game apiece.
Jefferson responded exactly the way Popovich hoped. He matched his Game 1 points in the opening minutes and was 7 of 9 by halftime, several coming during a 12-1 surge that broke the game open for good.
Tim Duncan scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, many dousing Dallas rallies. He also had 17 rebounds.
"We went to Tim just about every other time down the stretch," Popovich said. "He came through by scoring and rebounding at the other end. He did a really good job of scoring when they cut it to six or eight."
Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki went from hardly missing in Game 1 to hardly making. The Spurs didn't even smother him; merely knowing they were creeping his way threw Nowitzki out of whack. He missed six of his first seven shots, and even missed a free throw after having made 88 in a row. He finished with 24 points, down from 36 in the opener.
The Mavericks played their best only after they seemed to have buried themselves — down 16-5 early, they got within one by the end of the quarter; down 80-60 late in the third quarter they scored 12 straight points; down 13 again early in the fourth, they clawed within five. However, they never led and have now given away home-court advantage.
Game 3 is in San Antonio on Friday night, and the folks in the Alamo City probably can't wait. They're especially looking forward to seeing Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who fanned the flames of the rivalry in recent days by repeatedly saying, "I hate the Spurs."
The Spurs built their leads by playing smart. They held onto the ball (only nine turnovers, down from 17 in Game 1), forced their way to the rim, then took advantage of the space that opened up for longer-range jumpers. In the game-breaking second quarter, their inside-out attack produced 34 points on 68 percent shooting.
"They were a hot-shooting team and we were unable to keep them from being a hot-shooting team," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "When the ball's in the air, it's anybody's ball. They came up with all those plays. They got the loose balls and they were more opportunistic."
Manu Ginobili had 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:48 left that he punctuated with a celebratory punch as fans began rushing toward the exits.
Tony Parker, still coming off the bench, had 16 points and eight assists.
"We just played sharper than we did the other night, by that I mean not fouling and taking care of the ball," Popovich said. "We were focused."
The Mavs got only five points from their center tandem of Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood, all from Haywood. Jason Kidd was 1 of 7 for five points and Shawn Marion had just six.
Game 2 was different from Game 1 practically from the start.
Nowitzki missed his first two shots and drew two quick fouls, putting him on the bench before the game was even three minutes old. The Mavericks missed 12 of their first 13 shots to fall behind by 11.
Then, Duncan drew two quick fouls and also went to the bench. Dallas turned to a three-guard lineup, using Jason Terry and J.J. Barea with Kidd, and got within a point before the quarter ended.
San Antonio was still clinging to a 36-35 advantage when it pulled away again. Jefferson got things going with a long fadeaway over Caron Butler, then a finger-roll in the lane that started the key 12-1 spurt.
NOTES: The Spurs got to the line more, but wasted the chances. They missed eight of 22 free throws. ... Dallas' Eddie Najera went from not playing the opener to being first off the bench when Nowitzki got his second foul. ... Popovich changed his rotation, too, leaving Keith Bogans on the bench after using him 16 minutes in Game 1. ... Hill made his first field goal of the series in the fourth quarter. He was 0 for 2 in the opener, and 0 for 4 until swishing a 3-pointer.