Although he is short in stature for a man in his fiery line of work, the Dallas Mavericks are overjoyed with what they’ve gotten from DeJuan Blair in the first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.
NBA centers usually stand 6-foot-11 or taller, which helps them do their work much better. But the Mavs list Blair at a very generous 6-7.
Blair, however, has been tall enough to hold his own while doing a lot of meaningful damage against the Spurs.
In Friday’s elimination game, Blair came off the bench to provide 10 points, a playoff career-high 14 rebounds and a playoff career-high-tying four steals in 29 minutes as the Mavs evened their best-of-seven series against San Antonio at 3-3 with a 113-111 victory.
“He did a hell of a job out there,” Mavs forward Shawn Marion said. “He made his presence felt inside.
“He might not be as big as most bigs in the league, but he is very active and he uses his body very well.”
The Mavs are hoping Blair will be able to use his body very well again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday when they meet the Spurs at the AT&T Center in Game 7 of this best-of-seven series.
Blair spent his first four seasons with the Spurs before they decided to go in another direction and not re-sign him when he became a free agent last summer. That decision, among other things, has sparked a fire under Blair, who now is in the ultimate position to exact revenge on the Spurs.
“We’ve got Game 7 on their court,” Blair said. “Winning on their court would be the best revenge.”
Since the NBA suspended Blair from Game 5 for kicking Spurs center Tiago Splitter in the head in Game 4, Friday’s game was his second in a row where he’s manufactured a double-double. Before getting ejected in Game 4 for the incident involving Splitter, Blair collected 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in 16 only minutes.
“He was getting some great rebounds,” Marion said in describing Blair’s Friday night performance. “He has some unbelievable hands for his size.”
Monta Ellis came up big in the second half Friday night after struggling in the first half.
Unable to get his bearings, Ellis tallied just seven points in the first half on 3-of-8 shooting. But in the second half he helped spearhead the Mavs’ comeback by scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
That includes, in the game’s final 4:57, scoring 12 of the 22 points the Mavs tallied during that critical juncture.
“I love the way he bounced back in the second half,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
Six vs. five?
At the end of Friday’s wild game, the Spurs had six players on the court with 1.3 seconds left in the game, which should have led to a technical foul, but the officials didn’t see it.
Boris Diaw took the ball out from underneath the Spurs’ basket and had five targets to which to throw a court-length pass. Replays showed that the Spurs had Patty Mills, Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili waiting for a pass.
Ellis batted the ball out of bounds with 0.4 seconds left.
On the second inbounds pass, Mills didn’t get off the potential game-winning shot before the buzzer sounded. The Spurs had five on the court for the final play: Mills, Green, Diaw, Duncan and Ginobili. Leonard was not in the game.
For a change, it was the Spurs who were miffed by the fast start the Mavs got off to in Game 6.
With Dirk Nowitzki scoring eight points, the Mavs bolted out to a 34-26 lead at the end of the first period.
“We started the game a little slow,’’ Ginobili said. “They scored way too much, but we still had them.
“We have to be more alert and compete harder for 48 minutes.’’
In addition to their first-quarter explosion, the Mavs erupted for 37 points in the fourth quarter of Game 6. That’s the most points Dallas has scored in any of the 24 quarters in this series.