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NBA Playoffs: Spurs explode in Game 7; Nets edge Raptors

USA TODAY Sports San Antonio Spurs guard Patrick Mills (8) shoots against Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) in Game Seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs on Sunday at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

SAN ANTONIO — Two weeks into the NBA playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs finally produced a performance befitting a team that often dismissed opponents with ease while accumulating the league’s best record during the regular season.

Guard Tony Parker scored 32 points and the Spurs defeated the Dallas Mavericks 119-96 Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series.

The Spurs advance to face the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, who upset the Houston Rockets in a six-game series.

San Antonio was 62-20 during the regular season, three games better than the team closest in pursuit, Oklahoma City. Along the way the Spurs won a franchise regular season record 19 straight games.

But the Spurs struggled with Dallas, the outcome in five of the first six games having been decided in the final minute. The only blowout was a 113-92 Dallas victory in Game 2.

Then came Sunday...

“Today we got hit by a tidal wave,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re the best of the best.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “This was one of our best games of the year.

The series was more difficult for San Antonio than pundits seemed to anticipate against a No. 8 seed. Popovich said Carlisle used strategy that made life difficult for the Spurs.

“It kept many of us up night after night trying to figure those guys out,” Popovich said. “Rick did a great job with his game plan. The coaches confounded us. The players were great.”

Guard Manu Ginobili supplemented Parker with 20 points. Guard Danny Green added 16, one more than forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard.

Forward Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points. Guard Devin Harris scored 17.

Parker averaged 15.5 points in the first four games of the series and 25.7 in the last three. He said the Mavericks were able to eliminate the Spurs’ renowned ball movement and 3-point shooting, forcing him to shoot more.

“It was different for me, the first part of the series and the second part of the series,” Parker said. “The first part, we were playing Spurs basketball — move the ball like we did all season long. But Dallas just tried to make me a jump shooter. The last three games I was very aggressive.”

San Antonio led 68-46 at halftime after matching a franchise playoff record for field-goal accuracy during a half — 68.4 percent.

Dallas helped the Spurs’ cause, and their shooting percentage, by committing nine turnovers in the half. San Antonio turned them into 19 points.

Parker led the way with 24 points, converting 9 of 12 shots, a mixture of mid-range jumpers and forays to the basket against bigger, slower Mavericks who had the misfortune of guarding him in Dallas’ switching defense.

Ginobili had a big half as well, producing 11 points, four steals and four assists. Ginobili boosted the Spurs with four points on one possession in the first quarter, making a free throw after Carlisle was hit with a technical foul, and following up with a 3-point basket.

Duncan scored 12 in the half, hitting six of seven shots.

When the half was over, the Spurs’ so called Big Three — Parker, Ginobili and Duncan — had outscored the entire Dallas roster 47-36.

Nets edge Raptors to advance

The Brooklyn Nets had the advantage of experience over the Toronto Raptors and they needed every bit of it on Sunday.

The Nets, who led by 11 early in the fourth quarter, needed a last-second stop on Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry to hang on for a victory in Game Seven of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Nets meet the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the next round.

“I tip my hat to guys like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan,” said Nets forward Joe Johnson, who scored 26 points, 13 in the fourth quarter. “They led that team the whole way. They were tough.”

Lowry, who scored 28 points with seven rebounds and three assists, had the final attempt of the game. But he was impeded by veteran Nets center Kevin Garnett and Lowry’s desperation shot from six feet was blocked by forward Paul Pierce.

The rebound was grabbed by guard Deron Williams to clinch the win.

“You have to find ways to help your team win,” said Pierce, who only had 10 points with five fouls. “I just happened to be in the right spot. I saw (Lowry) split defenders and I got my hand on the ball.”

Lowry had cut the Nets’ lead to one with a driving bank shot with 16.7 seconds to play.

Nets guard Shaun Livingston, who finished with 10 points, made two free throws with 13.2 seconds to play to put the lead at three points.

The margin was back to one after forward Terrence Ross, who had 11 points, made a driving layup. The Raptors took possession on a turnover with 6.2 seconds left, but Lowry had his attempt blocked at the buzzer.

Reserve guard Marcus Thornton added 17 points for the Nets, Williams had 13 and Garnett added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Raptors forward Amir Johnson scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out with 7:53 left in the game.

DeRozan added 18 points for the Raptors and reserve forward Patrick Patterson had 16.