Finley, has become somewhat of a forgotten man because of all the talk about the knee injury of forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard Steve Nash, scored 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter, when the Mavericks began their march back from a 17-point deficit.
In a terrific all-around game, Finley made 9-of-14 shots and 12-of-12 free throws. He also had eight rebounds and five steals, both team highs.
"That's my role on this team," Finley said. "My stats might not be as good as they were a couple years ago, but I still feel that I'm the leader of this team. Vocally, I may not be as expressive as some leaders are, but by example I think I can lead this team and they feed off of that."
Also, Dallas used a variety of defenses, zone and man-to-man, designed to contain the Spurs' top offensive weapon, forward Tim Duncan, and make others make shots.
In this contest, that did not happen.
"We couldn't seem to stop them man-to-man, so we went to zone and looked more effective," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson. "In the fourth quarter, we stayed with it instead of going back to man-to-man."
The Spurs scored just one basket, a dunk by Duncan off a save by David Robinson, in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter. During that stretch, they watched an 81-74 advantage turn into a 97-86 deficit.
"It sorta looked like we thought somebody was going to give us something," said San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich. "That lack of maturity hurt us."
Duncan had 23 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists, but got very little help in the second half. The Spurs scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Finley got help from Nash, who has 14 points, and Nick Van Exel, who scored 21. Also, the Mavericks made all 23 of their free throws, and actually held a 42-38 edge on the boards, where they have been pounded all series.
Dallas staged a furious comeback, trailing 30-23 after one period, and 44-25 early in the second quarter after the Spurs put together a 12-0 run.
The Spurs still had a 66-49 advantage on consecutive baskets by Duncan early in the third period. That's when Finley got going, and soon after, his teammates followed.
His three-pointer made it 72-64 with 4:47 left, and two free throws by Eduardo Najera inched the Mavericks within 78-72 with 1:12 to go.
Nash made a clock-beating, running floater in the lane over Duncan and a three-pointer in a 9-2 spurt that opened the fourth quarter and tied the game. A dunk by Najera at the 7:33 mark gave the Mavericks their first lead at 85-84, and they never gave it back.
Another forgotten man, reserve forward Walt Williams, who played center at some times, had 12 points and eight boards, and Najera added 11 and eight for Dallas, which shot 43 percent (36-of-83).
Stephen Jackson scored 20 points, Malik Rose 14, and Bruce Bowen 12 for the Spurs, who shot 44 percent (31-of-70). Tony Parker, who had been averaging nearly 23 points per game in the series, managed just seven.
Even though they are still alive, it is not clear if Nowitzki, who suffered a sprained knee on Sunday, will be available when the series resumes with Game Six Thursday night in Dallas.
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