Summing it up

Another game, another stomach churner between Dallas and the Spurs. For the fourth time in five meetings in this best-of-seven series, the two Texas rivals battled down to the final minutes. And for the second straight game the Spurs held on, pushing the Mavericks to the brink of elimination with a 109-103 victory Wednesday at the AT&T Center that gave them a 3-2 stranglehold on the series.

Dallas fought back from an early deficit to tie the game in the second quarter, and got as close as four points with 2:58 remaining. But the Spurs answered every challenge to finish off a victory in which they never trailed. It wasn’t always pretty, but they enjoyed perhaps their best execution in the series with 24 assists on 41 baskets and just six turnovers.

It was the fourth game in the series decided by six points or less, and Tim Duncan said he expects yet another battle when the Spurs seek to close the Mavericks out in Dallas on Friday.

“We hope to finish it in Dallas,” he said. “But if it has to go to seven, it has to go to seven.”

Player of the game

Two days after the ejection of DeJuan Blair might have been the critical moment in Game 4, we were treated to another unlikely development in Game 5: Tiago Splitter morphed into some gangly, awkward version of Karl Malone during perhaps the best fourth quarter of his life. He had nine points, six rebounds and four assists in that span alone, and 17/12/5 overall for his third straight double-double and essential impetus down the stretch of yet another tight game.

Oh, yeah — he even dunked! With two hands!!!

The turning point

The Spurs were in danger of blowing yet another big lead as the Mavs closed to within four, 98-94, on Vince Carter’s 3-pointer. They had a chance to cut the deficit even closer, but Nowitzki missed a wide-open 17-footer — a look he called “probably the easiest shot I had all night” — after pump-faking Splitter out of the arena. Then came a dagger from Parker, who drilled a contested 3 near the end of the shot clock to make it a seven-point game with 1:52 left.