All the sweat the Dallas Mavericks poured out over the past seven months has ultimately come down to one game.
If the Mavs don’t win Game 6 at home on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs, their 2013-14 season will be over.
The Mavs got themselves in this tenuous situation because they failed to play enough adequate defense Wednesday night and wound up losing to the Spurs 109-103 at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio leads this best-of-seven first-round playoff series 3-2.
Despite the Spurs scoring at least 108 points for the second time in the past three games, coach Rick Carlisle is convinced his team will step up to extend this series to a Game 7, which, if necessary, will be played back here on Sunday.
“We’ve been battling for three months just to make the playoffs,” Carlisle said. “We’ve been in more big games, big meaningful games with true playoff ramifications than just about any other team except Phoenix and Memphis.
“We’ve been down this road, and we’ve had a lot of difficult losses. And we always find a way to bounce back, and that’s what we’re going to do for Game 6.”
The Mavs got body-slammed again in the paint by the Spurs, failing to apply enough defensive pressure. The Spurs outscored the Mavs in the paint 54-28 as they kept negotiating one layup after another.
Meanwhile, Tony Parker became a first-time father Wednesday morning when his fiancee gave birth to a son, Josh. Parker then shook off a sprained left ankle to pour in a team-high 23 points as the Spurs pushed the Mavs to the brink of elimination.
Parker had eight points when the Spurs used a 17-4 run to explode to a 21-8 lead early in the game. After the Mavs climbed to within 98-94 on Vince Carter’s 3-pointer with 2:58 to play, Parker’s 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining and his two free throws with 29.5 seconds left padded the Spurs’ lead to 104-96.
“They did a great job moving the ball and making the right decisions and keeping us on our heels,” said Carter, who led the Mavs with a game-high 28 points. “They did a great job moving the ball and putting pressure on the defense.’’
With Dirk Nowitzki locating his shooting stroke and scoring at least 20 points for the first time in this series, the Mavs kept marching from a 71-59 deficit midway through the third period until they inched within four behind 14 fourth-quarter points from Nowitzki.
The one shot, however, that Nowitzki wishes he could have back — an open 18-footer from the left side — would have brought the Mavs within two points, but it rimmed out with 2:14 to go.
“I felt good in the first half,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “I had a bunch of balls roll in and out.
“I stuck with it. I would like to have one back on the wing.”
Monta Ellis tallied 15 of his 21 points in the second half to help keep the Mavs within striking distance. But with Manu Ginobili (19 points, five assists) and Tim Duncan (16 points, 12 rebounds) being efficient again, the Mavs fell victim to Tiago Splitter, who bit them for 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“The problem is they’ve got three guys that are great, great players that are Hall of Famers,’’ Carlisle said. “Those guys are going to do some damage, and we’ve got to keep some of the other guys from doing some of the collateral damage, too.”
The Mavs missed backup center DeJuan Blair, who was suspended from Game 5 after kicking Splitter in the head in Game 4. Starting center Samuel Dalembert also went out early Wednesday with a sprained ankle, but came back and picked up nine rebounds and two blocks.
All that aside, Nowitzki put out the battle cry for Game 6, saying: “We have to be the more desperate team on Friday to win.”
Carlisle, whose team shot 43.8 percent Wednesday, also expressed his thoughts by adding: “We’ve been in a sense of urgency from the first game, so that’s not going to change. We’ve just got to do some things better.”
Carter, who converted 7 of 9 shots from 3-point range, noted that the Mavs must have a simple plan to beat the Spurs twice and advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
“Just beat them two in a row,” Carter said. “We know it’s possible.
“It’s a new puzzle now. We have to lay it on the line.”
Finding the touch
Dallas Mavericks fans have been waiting for Dirk Nowitzki to have a breakout game in the playoffs. It finally came, but in a loss. Nowitzki scored 26 points, his first game of at least 20 in the series.