Duncan, Finley Propel Spurs to Win in OT
San Antonio 95, L.A. Clippers 87 (OT)
SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 13 (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan found his stroke at the foul line just in time. Michael Finley made sure it didn't go to waste.
Duncan salvaged a miserable effort from the line with a pair of free throws to force overtime and Finley scored seven of his season-high 21 points in the extra session as the San Antonio Spurs posted a 95-87 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Tim (Duncan) was wonderful tonight when he had to be," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought he was fantastic. Tim was very solid mentally at the line, and he takes care of himself in that regard."
Duncan, who made 2-of-7 free throws in a shocking 94-84 loss at Atlanta on Saturday, was 1-of-11 and had missed eight straight when he went to the line for two shots with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing, 84-82.
"I don't ever do anything different," Duncan said. "I just put them up there and hope they go in. Sometimes it goes good and sometimes it goes bad, but I just want to give myself a chance. I had five or six that I didn't give a chance, but I had five or six that rolled around the rim and came out."
The two-time MVP, who entered as a 73 percent free-throw shooter this season, swished the first before rolling in the second to tie it. Los Angeles center Chris Kaman missed a short hook and Duncan airballed a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to force overtime.
"That shot hit everything it could without going in," Kaman said of his chance to win it late. "That's unfortunate. It wasn't even the intended play, but if you get a look at it, you have to take it. You really want to hit those and help your team."
The Clippers got only three free throws by Elton Brand in the extra session and were done in by Finley and Tony Parker, who finished with 25 points and seven assists against just one turnover.
"Tony Parker was great tonight like he always is," Duncan said. "Michael Finley stepped up and did a great job tonight, too."
Duncan opened the overtime with a layup and, after Brand hit a pair from the line, Parker penetrated and found Finley near the top of the key for an 18-footer that gave San Antonio the lead for good, 88-86.
"You have to give the teams we face credit," Finley said. "We're the defending champions and we have an X on our backs in every arena we go into. They (opponents) come out and bring their best game. We may come out and take it easy, but the teams we play won't."
Parker again drove on the Spurs' next possession and passed to Finley, who buried a 3-pointer for a five-point bulge with 3:01 to go. Bruce Bowen added a runner on an assist from Duncan with 84 seconds left and Finley's two free throws in the final minute sealed it.
Duncan had 27 points and a season-high 22 rebounds for San Antonio, which set a franchise record and matched an NBA season low for turnovers with four. Detroit was the first to record the number, doing so Sunday at Los Angeles, which has forced the fewest in the league.
The Clippers have lost two in a row for just the second time all season despite getting double-doubles from three players Tuesday. Brand scored 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, Sam Cassell had 20 and a season-high 10 boards and Kaman finished with 14 and 13.
Los Angeles had just five turnovers but shot only 33 percent (31-of-93). The starting backcourt tandem of Cassell and Cuttino Mobley was the primary culprit, combining to shoot 10-of-38.
"We just had a tough stretch where we couldn't make anything," Brand said. "We can't shoot for that kind of percentage all year. Taking them to overtime, that's one thing, but we had an opportunity for a victory here."
The Clippers' last basket came when Quinton Ross buried a 19-footer with 17 seconds left in regulation and two seconds remaining on the shot clock to give his club an 82-80 lead. Duncan was fouled by Brand nearly 35 feet from the basket moments later.
"Tim Duncan hit those free throws when they counted," Cassell said. "We'll take some valuable lessons out of this one. We will learn some things. There is no reason to get down, and part of my role as a veteran leader on this team is to not allow us to have a letdown."
Neither team led by more than eight points. Los Angeles got 14 points from Brand and, despite no turnovers by San Antonio, held a 50-44 lead at the half.
The Spurs finished with a franchise-worst 6-of-19 (32 percent) effort from the line but survived to become the first team in the NBA with 10 home wins.
"It was a great team effort," Finley said. "In the first half, we didn't play our best ball. Coach got on us at halftime. Sometimes you need a kick in the backside, and coach did that for us at the half. The defense stepped up and the offense came easier."
Despite guiding his team to its seventh straight home win in the series, Popovich feels the Clippers, who are off to their best start since 1974-75 when they were the Buffalo Braves, are for real.
"Most people have no clue how good the Clippers are," Popovich said. "They started to get better last year. With the addition of Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell, that's a lot of talent and leadership. They're one of the best teams in the league."