San Antonio Spurs 104, Los Angeles Clippers 102: Spurs win with an angry Tim Duncan
When Gregg Popovich finds something that works, he goes with it. When he finds something that works every time he uses it, he tucks it away and runs.
Especially when that something involves the best player in the history of the franchise.
The Spurs ran a pin-down screen for Tim Duncan on the right block down one with seven seconds remaining, freeing the big man for an elbow jumper he had already hit twice before in the game. It was the third time San Antonio had run the play and it was the third time it worked, but this time Duncan won the game with Willie Green crashing into his right elbow.
The Spurs survived yet another opponent’s final possession — and another injury to Manu Ginobili — to steal a 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in one of the most physical, hot-headed games of the season. Even the always-level Duncan got angry. And when he did, the Clippers paid dearly.
The Big Fundamental went for a season-high 34 points, including 13 in the final five minutes of the second quarter when he got mad.
“There was a stretch there where they put the whistle away, and it gave me a little energy to kind of play a little harder through it,” Duncan said. “(I) got some shots to go early and it kind of snowballed from there.”
Ryan Hollins shoved him, Lamar Odom hacked him, Pop got T’d up, and Duncan made Los Angeles pay. It was good that he did, because the Spurs once again lost their sixth man. After only a couple of minutes of action, Manu Ginobili was fouled by DeAndre Jordan on a drive to the basket and stumbled awkwardly before hitting the floor. He was relieved by Gary Neal — who made his first appearance in five games — and went straight to the locker room, his evening done.
Ginobili was not around for comment, but Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich indicated Manu won’t play on Sunday.
His absence would’ve been conspicuous had the Spurs given this one away. San Antonio went 7-for-21 from the floor in the fourth quarter, with four of the field goals coming off the hand of Duncan. It was the last two of the night that proved to be the difference.
Duncan hit a lay-up off a Tony Parker feed to tie the game at 101 with 31.9 seconds remaining, but a dead-ball foul committed by Parker on Chris Paul sent the Clippers’ point guard to the line where he knocked down the freebie. Still, the Spurs managed a stop, and they were able to set up the final play for Duncan to win the game.
With the success they had with it the two times prior, it was probably an easy decision.
“Good play-call by Pop. Matt Barnes and Tony (Parker) were kind of wrestling on the baseline. I was trying to get a screen on them, and as soon as they went off, good down-screen and (I) came off pretty clean,” Timmy said. “I saw the guard kind of step up, I kind of showed him the ball and he went for it.
“I just leaned in and prayed for the best.”
The prayer was answered, as the ball bounced off rim, off glass and through the net as the whistle blew. Duncan hit his tenth free throw in as many attempts, and the Spurs stifled a final post-up play by Paul to win the game.
It’s the fourth consecutive contest that has come down to the final play of regulation, and the Spurs have managed to win three of them. It’s these kinds of games this team cherishes down the stretch, much more so than the blowouts they were rolling through late last season.
“It’s great for us right now. It’s building something in us,” Duncan said. “We’ve had some big losses and some big wins, whatever it may be, and this part of the year it’s good to get that feeling in prior to the playoffs.”
With Miami in town on Sunday, the chances of another grind-it-out game are significant, especially if Manu is to miss any time. But as Parker progresses with each game — TP had 24 points as he and Tim went for 58 combined — Duncan remains an improbably steady force less than a month from his 37th birthday.
But tonight, it wasn’t a steady Duncan that won the game. It was an angry one.