SAN ANTONIO: Antonio McDyess had every reason to hate the San Antonio Spurs.
Not in the half-superficial way Mark Cuban says he does.
His first encounter with Tim Duncan involved the Spurs' great torching him seven straight times in a playoff game.
He was one quarter away from the championship celebration he craved in a Game Seven, when Duncan and Manu Ginobili took over that 2005 winner-take-all match.
Through the years, though, he saw how the Spurs operated. He hoped he would one day suit up for Gregg Popovich and go to battle alongside the all-time great power forward he so admired.
The Spurs brass came calling last summer, envisioning him as a rugged frontcourt mate for Duncan. His signing completed a whirlwind offseason that included the acquisition of Richard Jefferson and the selection of Dejuan Blair in the draft.
McDyess took his lumps in the regular season, often looking too old and creaky to be the difference-maker Duncan needed.
Players with the ability to face-and-go abused him. His mid-range accuracy plummeted after a knee injury in March.
His decision to re-sign with the Detroit Pistons after Joe Dumars traded him demonstrated his fierce loyalty.
Friday night, his yeoman's effort demonstrated his postseason value.
How many players want that elusive title more than McDyess?
The Spurs could still use another seven-footer with athleticism, and maybe GM R.C. Buford can unearth such a player in the draft. Buford turned a few expiring contracts into a roster overhaul.
Tony Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan starred in Game Three, as usual.
The trio needed some other contributors to fill previous roster gaps.
McDyess bumped and banged with Dirk Nowitzki and made the German forward work for most of his points. What else can a defender do against such an unorthodox, future Hall of Famer?
Friday night, the Spurs gave Gregg Popovich what he had been longing for since 2008.
He screamed too often last season and in parts of this one that his team's defense "sucked."
When his veteran squad needed to respond after a 17-0 Dallas run in the third quarter, it did so with defense.
When the Spurs struggled to find the hoop early in the fourth quarter, they used stifling coverage to cool the once-hot Mavericks.
Cuban watched his beloved team brick 12-of-15 shots in the decisive period. Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, J.J. Barea, and Rodrigue Beaubois each made last-gasp shots that did not matter in the end.
The results are indisputable.
Terry finished 6-of-15 from the field, Kidd 1-of-6, Erick Dampier 0-for-1, Caron Butler 1-for-3, and Shawn Marion an abysmal 3-of-9.
In the first two affairs, Marion was 2-for-7 and 4-for-10.
Butler was listless enough that Rick Carlisle benched him for the entire second half, handing his minutes to Barea.
Nowitzki totaled 35 points on 23 shots, but many of his 13 makes were contested by McDyess. As contested as possible.
Friday night, Duncan's frontcourt partner had the look of a secretary of defense.
He didn't block shots the way Dwight Howard does, and he didn't flap his arms like Chris "Birdman" Andersen.
He just let Nowitzki and the other Mavs know they would have to fight for every inch.
Some fans stayed after the game to hear McDyess' on-court interview with Spurs' radio play-by-play man Bill Schoenig.
They cheered and yelled "San Antonio."
In his 31 minutes on the floor, he earned the nickname. His gritty performance fit with the character of the city and fortitude of its pro team.
He scored six points, including an uncontested dunk in the first quarter. He hauled down six rebounds.
Three of those created extra possessions for the Spurs.
McDyess wasn't spectacular. That adjective belongs to Ginobili, who returned after he broke his nose in a collision with Nowitzki's elbow to score 11 fourth-quarter points.
And to Parker, who hit three successive jumpshots, the biggest makes of the contest for either team.
And to Duncan, who again confounded the Mavs' interior defense to pour in 25 points in 43 minutes.
Yet, McDyess was a big factor in a telling game.
The Spurs again won the paint battle by double figures, outscoring the Mavs inside 56 to 38.
In three games, the Spurs have outdueled the Mavs there by 18, 10, and 18.
This was the case in 2006, and maybe it signals a turning tide.
The Mavericks drilled eight-of-20 three-pointers, and all of them were timely.
The number of three-point makes for the Spurs was more shocking.
Zero. They finished zero-for-seven from beyond the arc.
The last time the Spurs won any significant game without the aid of a trifecta?
McDyess would have been defending Duncan, not helping him make the latest statement of the series.