SEATTLE, May 12 (Ticker) --
The Seattle SuperSonics benefited from the
San Antonio Spurs' inability to take advantage of what was free.
The Spurs struggled badly at the free-throw line in the fourth
quarter and Tim Duncan
missed a short shot in the lane in the
final seconds, allowing the SuperSonics to escape with a 92-91
and climb back into the Western Conference semifinals.
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After losing the first two games by double digits, the Sonics
returned home and battled the entire way in the most physical
game of the series, getting plenty of help from the Spurs along
's basket inside with 2:30 remaining gave the
Sonics the lead for good at 90-88. Duncan split two free throws
15 seconds later, a familiar sight in the fourth quarter for
the Spurs. The star was 5-of-8 at the line in the final period
and 9-of-15 overall.
made two free throws with 1:59 remaining for a
three-point lead before Manu Ginobili
managed to go 1-of-2 at
the line 13 seconds later, pulling the Spurs within 92-90.
Ginobili returned to the line with 29 seconds left but again
only split two free throws, bringing the Spurs within 92-91.
San Antonio went a woeful 8-of-16 from the free-throw line in
the fourth quarter and finished 19-of-34 overall. An All-Star,
Ginobili - an 80 percent free-throw shooter in the regular
season - went just 3-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
"Our performance at the free-throw line was a single-handed
great way to lose a game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
"We know we aren't the best free-throw shooting team in the
league," Ginobili said. "Still, we had so many chances at
winning it, so we have to take an optimistic point of view."
All-Star Ray Allen
, held scoreless in the fourth quarter, missed
a tough jumper from the baseline and Robert Horry
rebound with 2.9 seconds left, giving the Spurs a final chance.
Following a timeout, Duncan took an inbounds pass from Ginobili
and came across the lane, but his four-foot turnaround shot
bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
"Got where I wanted to get, and I had a great look at it,"
Duncan said. "Unfortunately, it didn't drop for me."
"I knew they only had two seconds, so I knew I had to push him
out as far as I could," said Vitaly Potapenko
, who defended
Duncan on the final play. "I tried to avoid the foul because I
knew the two free throws would really hurt us. ... I knew I
couldn't block it, but I just had to maintain position."
Allen scored 20 points and Daniels 10 of his 18 in the fourth
quarter for the third-seeded Sonics, who host Game Four on
The Sonics were able to find a way down the stretch despite
playing the final 3:34 of the contest without forward Rashard Lewis
, who suffered a sprained left big toe. Allen and Vladimir Radmanovic
both suffered sprained right ankles in Game 1
Sunday. Radmanovic is not expected to return for the series.
"Tonight, it worked out for us," Seattle coach Nate McMillan
said. "We didn't want to give up anything easy, and they missed
a few free throws in the fourth quarter. I felt like we got a
Allen also struggled in the fourth quarter, missing all six of
his shots to finish 6-of-23 overall. He did score eight points
in a back-and-forth third quarter that ended tied at 75-75.
Duncan had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Ginobili and Tony Parker
each scored 18 for second-seeded San Antonio.
Last season, the Spurs won the first two games of the conference
semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers before dropping the
next four contests.
Duncan came out aggressive in the fourth quarter, scoring eight
of his team's first 10 points. His jumper with 5:57 left gave
the Spurs an 85-82 lead.
After Jerome James
, who had his best game of the series, threw
down a dunk for the Sonics, Parker scored on a drive to the
basket with 4:27 left for an 87-84 edge.
James, a surprising force in the first round against Sacramento,
made all seven of his shots and scored 15 points before fouling
out with 1:46 remaining. He managed just 12 points on 6-of-17
shooting in the first two games of the series.
Parker had a chance to extend the lead with 4:01 left but
promptly missed two free throws. He went just 2-of-6 at the
"We hurt ourselves. We didn't help ourselves at all," Parker
said. "We threw it away with missing free throws."
Daniels made four free throws around 1-of-2 from the line from
Ginobili, tying the game at 88-88 with 2:58 left.
Daniels, a former Spur, and Collison led a solid bench effort
the Sonics, who held a 34-33 edge in bench points.
In the first quarter, Ginobili came off the bench to score nine
points. He entered the game at the 7:37 mark with the Spurs
trailing, 11-6, but helped San Antonio take a 29-21 lead.
Ginobili also was the recipient of a flagrant foul by Danny Fortson
with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. Later in the
game, he was on the end of hard foul by Potapenko.
"We played the game they played in Games 1 and 2. They were
the aggressors," McMillan said. "They were the team that
played the most physical in the first two games. They had us on
our heels, were more aggressive and went right at us. We came
out with a sense of urgency and were aggressive on both ends of
"It's a contact sport and both the teams are going to be
aggressive and physical," Popovich said. "That's just what's to
The Spurs led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter
before settling for a 51-49 edge at the break. San Antonio shot
54 percent (21-of-39) in the first half.
Seattle stayed in the game by making 19-of-23 free throws in the
half while San Antonio was 6-of-7.