||04-29-2010 05:58 AM
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Known for nailing a motivational quote from a 19th-century social reformer to the locker room wall, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich passed on giving his players a derivative, rah-rah speech about finishing off Dallas.
"They're grown men," he said. "They don't need me to tell them."
The Spurs certainly got the message now.
San Antonio was back home Wednesday after an uninspired showing in Game 5 in which the Mavericks crushed them 103-81 to fight off elimination. It was the most lopsided game in an otherwise thrilling series of wild point swings, tough words and hard fouls among the Texas rivals.
It also might have swung the momentum back to the Mavs.
Heading into Game 6 on Thursday night in San Antonio, the Mavs abruptly went from moribund to more like the No. 2 seed favored in this series all along. If they can finally cash in on being the NBA's best road team, they'll send it back home for a Game 7.
"They're up 3-2, and we did it to ourselves," Mavs center Brendan Haywood said. "Right now we have to fight and put a lot of pressure on them. If we win that game, then it becomes anybody's series."
The Spurs are still in control, and with history on their side. Only eight teams in NBA history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit, though Mavs coach Rick Carlisle (Detroit, 2003) and forward Shawn Marion (Phoenix, 2006) helped pull off the feat most recently.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have also made good on their last four chances to finish off a playoff opponent at home. The last time San Antonio let a team survive elimination at the AT&T Center was 2006 - against the Mavericks.
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