DALLAS — Boris Diaw’s big third quarter wasn’t enough to hold off a Dallas comeback.
The San Antonio veteran’s decisive shot in the final minute was.
Diaw hit a go-ahead 3-pointer for the last of his 17 points, Manu Ginobili scored 23 and the top-seeded Spurs held on to beat the Mavericks 93-89 in Game 4 on Monday night, pulling even in their first-round playoff series.
“You’ve got to give up something,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who was running at Diaw as the shot was released. “That was a tough one.”
Just like Vince Carter’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer was for the Spurs two days earlier, when Dallas went up 2-1 with a one-point win. The difference was, the Mavericks had a chance to do something about Diaw’s shot after San Antonio went up 90-87 with 32 seconds remaining.
Nowitzki, who had 19 points, had a putback on a missed 3 by Monta Ellis to get Dallas within 90-89 with 19 seconds to go. But the Mavericks let nearly 10 seconds run off the clock before fouling Ginobili.
Ginobili missed one of the free throws, giving Ellis a chance to tie on a driving layup. Ellis, who led the Mavericks with 20 points, missed again to finish a 6-of-20 shooting night.
“I had a good look at the end but it didn’t go down,” Ellis said.
The Spurs, who led by 20 points in the third quarter, regained the home-court advantage by getting a split of two games in Dallas, matching what the eighth-seeded Mavericks did in San Antonio.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio, and the Spurs are going back tied because a bench that’s been quiet this postseason outscored Dallas’ reserves 50-30.
“We knew that we could do better,” Diaw said. “We didn’t play the same like we did during the regular season.”
Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter had double-doubles for the Spurs, with Duncan getting 14 points and 10 rebounds and Splitter adding 10 points and 12 boards.
San Antonio, which led from early in the second quarter until late in the fourth, was down 83-82 when former teammate DeJuan Blair was ejected for kicking Splitter in the back of the head after getting called for a foul when he got tangled up with the San Antonio center as both players fell to the court.
Ginobili, who had five assists, made the technical free throw for an 83-all tie, and Splitter hit both free throws on the foul for an 85-83 San Antonio lead.
Blair had a big hand in getting Dallas back in the game, scoring all 12 of his points and grabbing nine of his 11 rebounds in the second half.
“It’s real disappointing because with me in the game our momentum was going great and when that happened and that got me out of there, that was a big deal,” said Blair, who said the kick was unintentional.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich challenged his team to play with more “nastiness” after falling behind in the series with two straight losses, and his Spurs responded in the first half.
The best display was in a dominant second quarter, when the Spurs outscored the Mavericks 32-13. Kawhi Leonard intended to swat Carter’s driving shot into the stands. Instead, Patty Mills dived into the seats to save it, sending the Spurs on a fast break that ended with a miss by Tony Parker, who had 10 points of 5-of-14 shooting.
Parker’s miss didn’t matter, though, because the Mavericks were in the middle of a 5-minute scoreless stretch that included eight straight misses to cap a 2-of-18 shooting spell from late in the first quarter to late in the second. Dallas shot 21 percent in the second quarter.
Diaw scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the third quarter, and looked like he was going to be able to hold off the Dallas surge.
“Manu and Boris changed the entire game,” Duncan said. “They kept us from blowing a big lead.”
Dallas hurt itself with missed free throws. Samuel Dalembert was 1 of 6 from the line two nights after he hit two late to get Dallas even in a back-and-forth final minute. The Mavericks were 18 of 28 from the line.
NOTES: Both teams wore black socks in support of the Los Angeles Clippers as the NBA investigates racist comments that owner Donald Sterling is alleged to have made in a taped conversation. … Dalembert had 15 rebounds but just three points. … The Spurs improved to 25-0 on the road when leading after three quarters. They are 53-1 overall. … Nowitzki was held under 20 points in a fourth straight playoff game for the first time since his first postseason in 2001.