Samuel Dalembert spent so much time diving on the floor for loose balls Saturday that the Dallas Mavericks center probably has skid marks all over his body.
Dalembert, though, felt the dives were necessary because of one important intangible.
“It’s playoff time ... you can’t hold anything back,” the Mavs’ center said. “I’ve played in the playoffs before with some of the great players in Philly and I know how it is.
“I’ve played against championship teams before in Detroit, and I know how it is. You’ve got to go out there and give everything, and you can’t hold anything back.”
Dalembert exerted plenty of energy Saturday as the Mavs escaped Game 3 with a 109-108 last-second triumph over the San Antonio Spurs. The victory gave the Mavs a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series over the Spurs, who entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record at 62-20.
For his part in Game 3, Dalembert contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
He played fearlessly during his 25 minutes on the court as the Mavs used a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Vince Carter to shock the Spurs.
“Sam had a great game [Saturday],” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His energy was good, his activity was good, and we need that, and he’s going to keep doing that.
“He had a couple of fouls that were tough plays, but we talked [Sunday] about his positioning and things like that.”
The Mavs are hoping Dalembert can continue his superb play when the series with the Spurs resumes at 8:30 p.m. Monday at American Airlines Center. The 12-year veteran has no doubts he’ll keep being a major factor as long as the Mavs are in the playoff race.
“My main focus has always been to fulfill my role, protect the rim, get second-chance opportunities and crash the boards a lot,” Dalembert said. “I have to make things happen.”
What was even more amazing about Dalembert’s performance is that he was making things happen against Tim Duncan, who is considered one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the NBA. Dalembert took the challenge head-on and didn’t blink.
“Sammy had a different motor [Saturday], for whatever reason,” Carter said. “He was attacking, rebounding, defending, and just doing it all.
“Tim Duncan is a Hall of Famer, hands down, so I think he just wanted to accept the challenge and see where he stands as a defender.”
Dalembert knows that no matter how well he’s playing he’ll probably never receive the court-time that Duncan gets because the Mavs have a three-center platoon system involving himself, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair.
“I just get ready and stay ready when Coach calls my name, and I just stay ready and try to be ready to produce,” Dalembert said. “I was able to be out there for a little bit [more] of an extended period of time than usual, and I was able to really do my job, affect the win and be a defensive presence, and also try to contribute offensively for the team.”
Dalembert was 4 of 8 from the field and 5 of 5 from the free throw line in Game 3, after having just six points, 15 rebounds and two blocks in the first two games of this series.
His impact is immeasurable, as far as the Mavs are concerned.
“We said that from the beginning his presence is going to be important, and each big man in line behind him is going to be as important,” Carter said. “I think [Saturday] he was just active.
“I think seeing some shots go in for him, getting to the free throw line and knocking free throws down really gave him confidence. And I think he understands how important he is to this team, and he’s taking the challenge.”