As he met with reporters after Thursday’s practice at American Airlines Center, Dallas Mavericks backup center DeJuan Blair seemed almost apologetic.
Apologetic for not being able to suit up for Game 5 of the best-of-seven playoff series. Apologetic he was unable to offer any support as the Spurs pick-and-rolled their way to a 109-103 triumph and a 3-2 lead in this first-round series.
The NBA suspended him for that game without pay for kicking Spurs center Tiago Splitter in the head during Game 4.
In order for the Mavs to send the series back to San Antonio for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday, they’ll need a backs-to-the-wall performance from every player. Especially Blair.
“Everybody in the world knows how anxious I am to get back out there and compete and try to get us to a Game 7,” a subdued Blair said. “[Friday’s] going to be a tough, hard-fought [game], but we’ve just got to come out here and play our game.
“A lot of things were going through my mind [while watching Game 5]. I just can’t wait to get out there.”
Forbidden from entering the AT&T Center on Wednesday, Blair said he watched Game 5 alone in his San Antonio hotel room. It was as if he was stuck on an elevator with no place to run or hide.
“Well, we missed him [Wednesday] night, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “When you’re on the road in a hostile environment, you need physical guys.
“So it hurt not having him, so it’ll be good to have him back.”
Before being ejected in Game 4, Blair erupted for 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in only 16 minutes.
“I thought he was great in Game 4 here,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We were down 20, he came in, the fight he showed, the physicality he brought, the tip-outs, the offensive rebounds, he just played really, really hard.
“I’m hoping that by him resting [Wednesday] that he’ll be fired up to play and use some more of the stuff that he was doing in Game 4.”
Blair didn’t want to discuss his suspension, but he wasn’t apprehensive when talking about what intangibles he can offer Friday.
“I feel like I can bring that energy and toughness, more toughness to our team,” Blair said. “We’ve just got to click as a team.
“I would love to go back down [to San Antonio] and play on the Spurs’ court again. So we’ve just got to try to get this win, and I think we’re going to do that.”
The Mavs were marveling at the Game 5 shot-making of 37-year-old Vince Carter.
In 27 minutes off the bench Wednesday, Carter scored a season-high 28 points, was 10-of-16 from the field and an amazing 7-of-9 from behind the 3-point arc.
“I just think in the first half, he’s the only one that really kept us in the game,” Nowitzki said. “Otherwise, they would have blown this game wide open.
“When he gets his little finger wiggle, that means he’s ready to go, and that was phenomenal. He’s looking over to the bench, he was confident and he made some phenomenal plays for us to even be in a situation where we could stick around the second half and still have a shot at it.”
The 10 field goals made are Carter’s highest in a game this season, and the seven 3s ties for the most he’s converted in a game this year. Carter was 7-of-12 from 3-point land during a Feb. 24 road game against the New York Knicks.