SAN ANTONIO, June 6 (Ticker) -- For a number of reasons, Dikembe Mutombo was wagging his finger.

It could have been to signify the first NBA Finals win in franchise history by the New Jersey Nets. It could have been pointing to the rafters, where a championship banner would hang. Or it could have been simply to say, I am the one to guard Tim Duncan.

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Mutombo's immense presence on defense and a bounce-back game by Jason Kidd gave the Nets a gutsy 87-85 victory over the San Antonio Spurs that evened the Finals at one game apiece.

"I felt so good," Mutombo said. "I showed so many things out there in a positive way and I hope the coaches will take good note of that."

J.Kidd and the Nets celebrated after Stephen Jackson's shot missed its mark in Game 2.
Garrett W. Ellwood
NBAE/Getty Images





A forgotten man in the postseason, Mutombo reminded everyone why he is a four-time Defensive Player of the Year. Previously anchored to the bench, the 7-2 giant emerged to anchor the defense of the Nets, who slowed down Duncan and sped up their offense.

"We cannot stop him, but if we can find a way to slow him down, we are going to have great success in this series, and tonight was that night," said Mutombo, whose impact could not be measured by his four points, four rebounds and three blocks. "We were kind of slowing him down. We made him think twice, sometimes three times, before he did any move."

"He does what he usually does, he affects shots around the basket," said Duncan, who terrorized the Nets with 32 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists in Game One. "He came out with a lot of energy."

Playing the second and fourth quarters, Mutombo made it difficult for Duncan to dominate. The third and most effective defender on the two-time NBA MVP, he helped limit Duncan to 19 points and 12 rebounds. He also took away the penetration and second shots that the Spurs enjoyed in their series-opening win.

"I knew that I was going to get more minutes than I did before and I was more prepared mentally and physically," Mutombo said.

With Mutombo manning the defense, Kidd controlled the offense, scoring 30 points, including New Jersey's last seven. He made 11-of-24 shots, shaking off Wednesday's 4-of-17 disaster.

"He was on attack mode all night long," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "He did heck of a job of being offensively aggressive. It pretty much makes our whole team better."

"Once I made a couple shots, I felt a little more comfortable," said Kidd, who added seven rebounds and three assists. "I just tried to let the game come to me and when shots presented themselves to take them."

The Spurs had their same old problems - turnovers and missed free throws. They gave it away 22 times and made just 14-of-25 from the line. Duncan was the prime culprit, missing 7-of-10, including a crucial one in the final minute.

"Our weakness is our free throws and our turnovers and we did both of those tonight," Duncan said. "I missed seven free throws. If I make a couple of those, its a whole different ballgame."

San Antonio still scrambled back within one in the final seconds when Stephen Jackson made a 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds to go.

Kidd quickly was fouled and made things very interesting by missing the first of two free throws.

After Kidd made the second, Spurs guard Tony Parker dribbled upcourt and found Jackson on the left wing behind the arc. But the former Net's potential game-winner bounced away as time ran out.

"Tony gave me a great pass, but Jason Kidd did a great job of contesting it, and he kind of got a finger or two on it," Jackson said.

San Antonio lost at home for the fourth time in the playoffs. New Jersey improved to 7-2 on the road and heads home for the next three games, beginning Sunday night.

"We've never accomplished anything, but now that we have home-court advantage, that's it," Scott said. "The object is to win a championship."

"I think they have some great confidence right now," admitted Duncan, who made just 8-of-19 shots."

Kenyon Martin again battled foul trouble and scored 14 points for the Nets, who led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. Lucious Harris added 10 points off the bench.

Parker scored 21 points and Jackson added 16 - 12 on 3-pointers - for the Spurs, who never got untracked offensively until the final period. David Robinson had 10 points and eight rebounds.

"I think we wasted a game," Parker said. "We did that a lot in the playoffs - against Phoenix, against the Lakers, against Dallas."

The Nets held a 66-56 lead entering the fourth quarter when Mutombo returned. Jackson's long-range shooting cut the deficit, but Mutombo smothered a reverse layup by Robinson and Richard Jefferson leaked out for a layup and a 78-70 bulge midway through the period.

Parker's teardrop layup made it 78-75 with 4:18 to play, and Scott sat down Mutombo. Again Parker scored off penetration, making it 80-79 at the 2:09 mark before Kidd took charge with a tough running banker with 1:16 remaining.

"My teammates have called on me to be aggressive and take the ball to the basket, so I'm learning to do that, too," Kidd said.

Duncan was fouled with 24 seconds to go but split the free throws. Kidd made two from the line, then two more after another tough penetration move by Parker.

The Nets fell in an early 7-0 hole but inched their way back to a 19-18 lead after one quarter as the Spurs seemed to relax with a touch of overconfidence.

Mutombo changed all that. He played the entire second quarter and his presence was borne out by San Antonio's 6-of-18 shooting. Patrolling the paint, controlling the defensive boards and even scoring four points, he helped the Nets grab the lead for good.

"If he's doing his job, the team is doing well, I leave guys in," Scott said. "He was doing a great job of blocking shots, taking up space and that's what we needed."

Looking remarkably spry, Mutombo challenged a dunk by Duncan midway through the quarter and pleaded in protest when he was called for a foul. In the final minute, he snuffed a layup by Kevin Willis and trotted out his trademark finger, wagging it to the SBC Center crowd.

"Finger-wagging is just something that I do automatically," Mutombo said. "It's not like I plan to do it."

Trailing 41-35 at halftime, San Antonio dug a deeper hole with sloppy play. Kidd found Jason Collins for a pair of hoops that gave New Jersey its largest lead at 62-47 with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter.