Spurs cling tight to winning margin

Then there was Parker's spin move in the first quarter of Game 5 that led to a layup that he converted, giving the Spurs an early 21-8 advantage and Parker the confidence that his ailing left ankle wouldn't be a bother the rest of the night.

"When I made that move, I thought I would be fine for the game," Parker said afterward.

Maybe the reason the Spurs are in the driver's seat is because DeJuan Blair foolishly kicked Splitter in the head and got suspended for Game 5. Not only did Dallas miss Blair's energy Wednesday, but without his space-eating presence and with Samuel Dalembert tweaking his ankle early (therefore not making much of an impact), the lane became as inviting for the Spurs as a tray of free bagels at a board meeting. San Antonio ended up outscoring the Mavericks 54-28 in the paint in Game 5. Splitter got his revenge, too, by figuratively drumming the Mavs over the head with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

Maybe the difference just comes down to how well the Spurs know each other compared to a Mavericks team that has major pieces that just came together this season. Like in the second quarter Wednesday; when San Antonio's offense started to get bogged down, you see the Spurs go back to an old reliable, like Ginobili jumping like he's pulling up for 3 only to laser a pass inside to Duncan for an easy layup, and you remember exactly what the Spurs have going for them. Or those two running a pick-and-roll together a few possessions later with similar effectiveness.

"We'll take it where we can get it," Duncan said of the familiarity. "I don't know how you qualify that or quantify that, but we'll take it where we can get it."

Yup, there's just not much separating these two teams, and that's the appeal of the series. It doesn't have the overtimes galore or the jobs-on-the-line drama of Thunder-Grizzlies or Rockets-Blazers, but there is certainly a charm to it nonetheless. Two cities with 275 miles between them, two teams with a difference of 13 wins in their regular-season records, and five games that have all pretty much been a toss-up.

And now it shifts back to Dallas for Game 6 on Friday where it could finish up, or staying more in fashion with the rest of the series, see the Mavs tie it up 3-3.

"Both home games we were right there," Nowitzki said of Games 3 and 4 at American Airlines Center. "We could have won both. We could have lost both. This is how close this series has been."

So close that both teams sound like they expecting the toss-up to continue.

"It's been very even," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "There's just things that we're going to have to do better in Game 6 that are all about guts and digging down. And we can do it. And we will do it."

And if the Mavs indeed do what Carlisle is suggesting?

"Our goal is to get to four games, however long it takes," Duncan said. "We hope to finish it in Dallas, but if it has to go to 7, it has to go to 7."

And it kind of feels like it does have to go the distance.

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