San Antonio 117, Phoenix 115

SAN ANTONIO, April 19 (AP) -- Midway through the first quarter after missing two jumpers, Tim Duncan threw the ball up yet again, then held his arms wide.

This time, would the shot fall?

It did. And much later the Spurs' big man hit an even bigger one. Duncan's first 3 of the season with just ticks left sent his team into double overtime against the revenge-minded Phoenix Suns.

Then it was Manu Ginobili's turn, and his layup with 1.8 seconds left pushed the defending champions past the Suns 117-115 Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Now the teams have two days to rest from their marathon best-of-seven Western Conference opener before meeting for Game 2 on Tuesday night.

"I got a wide-open shot. Wound it up. Threw it up there and hoped for the best,'' said a clearly tired Duncan, who had 40 points and 15 rebounds.

This year's rematch of what many dubbed last year's real finals - a tense and testy second-round series between the teams that the Spurs won in six games on their way to the title - got off to a wild start and more than met expectations.

"It feels like a finals game,'' Duncan said. "It's the first game of the first series, and we're going to have to muster energy back up.''

Early on, Game 1 did not look like it would turn into a thriller. The Suns controlled play for the first three quarters, leading by as many as 16 points despite early foul trouble for Shaquille O'Neal. The Suns held a six-point lead with a quarter left in regulation.

The Spurs took their first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter, but were down 93-90 with 1:10 to go after Leandro Barbosa's fast-break layup.

With 15 seconds on the clock, Michael Finley tied it at 93 for the Spurs to send it to overtime.

"We had the game won a few times and just weren't tough enough or disciplined enough to make every single play when it counted,'' said Steve Nash, who had 25 points and 13 assists.

Duncan made the big shot in the first overtime. With his team down 104-101, Duncan found himself all alone at the 3-point line.

After only a slight hesitation, he fired the ball and made it with 3 seconds to play. It was Duncan's first 3 of the season. He was 0-for-4 previously.

"I didn't know what was going to happen, honestly,'' Duncan said. "Manu turned the corner, Shaq just totally leaves me and stayed with Manu.''

In the second overtime, O'Neal's dunk tied it at 112 with 1:33 to play. Ginobili's layup put the Spurs ahead.

Nash missed a key 3 with less than a minute to play. After risky, cross-court inbounds pass to the Spurs' Brent Barry, he was fouled. Barry made one of two free throws.

With 15 seconds left, the Suns went to sharp shooter Nash. Nearly falling out of bounds in the corner, he hit a 3 that made it 115-all.

Then Ginobili drove the lane against Raja Bell and got to the hoop, as he often does, almost at will, and his layup fell.

"What I knew, before taking it to the rim, is that Shaq and Amare (Stoudemire) were not there,'' Ginobili said. "So, I knew if I had the opportunity to go get in there, get some legs into the shot, I had an opportunity to finish.''

Tony Parker added 26 points for the Spurs and Ginobili had 24.

"We had a lot of opportunities to win,'' O'Neal said. "You can't make mistakes against a team like that especially here in this building.''

But O'Neal wasn't completely contrite.

"I just wanted to play aggressive, but the floppers prevailed today. Amare and myself are going to continue to play aggressive,'' O'Neal said of his foul trouble. "Hopefully those guys will compete rather than just fall down.''

Stoudemire, who fouled out with 12 seconds left in the first overtime, led the Suns with 33 points. O'Neal scored 11 points.

"They know we let them have one,'' O'Neal said. "All we need is one in this building.''

Phoenix acquired O'Neal in a blockbuster midseason trade for a series such as this one to give the run-and-gun Suns a defensive boost.

O'Neal played just under four minutes in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls. He was on the court for just 24 seconds in the second quarter before picking up his third foul and sitting out the rest of the half.

O'Neal missed two shots right off, the first when his dunk off an alley-oop pass missed. He didn't score in the first half.

Even though Phoenix got O'Neal to help their half-court game, the Suns, who still like to play quick, had only nine fast-break points in the game.

The Spurs, on the other hand, were able to punish the Suns with their strong suit. They had a 72-46 advantage in the paint.

"They're just not going to fold up their tent and go home,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They're going to make runs. This is their homecourt. You're going to have to beat them.''

Notes: There were quite a few Suns orange T-shirts dotting the crowd. ... The Spurs have eliminated the Suns in three of their last four postseason appearances. ... Finley had 13 points for San Antonio, and Kurt Thomas, who played for the Suns last season, grabbed 10 rebounds. ... Barry was playing just his third game for the Spurs since re-signing with them in March after a February trade sent him from San Antonio to Seattle. He's been sidelined this season with injuries to his calf. ... Spurs coach Gregg Popovich got a technical foul with 11:48 left in the second quarter. ... Parker and Thomas fouled out in the second overtime.


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