San Antonio Spurs All-Star Tim Duncan is a man of little emotion and even fewer words.
The Los Angeles Clippers brought out a demonstrative side rarely seen from the 16-year veteran, and it helped lead to their downfall.
Duncan had a season-high 34 points, including a game-winning three-point play with 2.2 seconds left, and San Antonio outlasted Los Angeles, 104-102, on Friday night.
Sparked by a pair of hard fouls in the second quarter, Duncan was 12 for 19 from field and also had 11 rebounds in leading San Antonio (55-17) to its seventh straight home victory.
”There was a stretch where they put the whistle away,” Duncan said. ”It gave me a little energy to kind of play a little harder. I got some shots to go early and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
Tony Parker added 24 points and eight assists, and Tiago Splitter had 14 points for San Antonio.
The Spurs extended their lead in the Western Conference to 2 1/2 games over Oklahoma City, which lost 101-93 to Minnesota.
Blake Griffin scored 18 points, Jamal Crawford added 16 and Chris Paul had 14 for the Clippers (49-24), who remain fourth in the West. Caron Butler added 11 points and Willie Green had 10.
With San Antonio trailing 102-101 with 7 seconds remaining, Duncan was fouled by Willie Green on a 16-foot jumper. Duncan yelled after making the jumper, tugging at the front of his jersey and nearly walking to the opposite free throw line in celebration.
Duncan made the ensuing free throw to give San Antonio the final winning margin. He finished 10 for 10 on free throws and had three assists and two blocks.
”Well, you just look at his line and just be amazed that he’s doing what he’s doing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”But he’s done the work to put himself in the position to have games like this and to have the season that he’s had. You couldn’t be more proud of the guy tonight on what he did out there.”
Paul missed a seven-foot jumper on the final possession that would have won the game, but Duncan’s jumper bothered him more.
”He traveled,” Paul said. ”I can say that, right? He traveled. I just looked at the film. He traveled. He made an unbelievable shot, though. We have to do better. I’m not trying to take anything away from him. It was an unbelievable big-time shot. That’s why he’s one of the best power forwards to ever play the game. But, he traveled.”
The Clippers set up the tense finale by erasing a seven-point deficit in the final six minutes.
Crawford’s 3 tied the game at 99. Griffin blocked a short jumper by Splitter, resulting in a three-foot floater by Paul with 35.2 seconds left for a 101-99 lead.
Duncan’s layup tied the game at 101 off an assist from Parker, who was momentarily dazed when he was struck in the neck by DeAndre Jordan’s knee as he released the ball.
Parker was then charged with a dead ball foul when he grabbed Paul’s jersey prior to the inbound play. Paul made the free throw to give the Clippers a 102-101 lead to set up Duncan’s shot.
Los Angeles failed to get a shot off on the ensuing possession when Boris Diaw stripped Paul on a drive and Griffin was forced to toss up a five-foot jumper that failed to draw iron.
”The biggest play of the game was probably when we were up one, I had the ball and I didn’t even get a shot attempt up,” Paul said. ”That’s terrible. You can’t do that. You’re up one; you have to at least get a shot up on the rim. If I make that shot, now it’s a three-point game.”
Duncan then made the game-winning shot.
”We’ve got to do a better job as a team making it harder, especially when he’s got it going like that,” Griffin said of Duncan.
The emotion for that game-winner was sparked midway through the second quarter when Duncan received a two-handed push from Ryan Hollins as he drove to the basket for a one-handed dunk. The Spurs’ All-Star forward hung on the rim briefly to steady himself, but no flagrant was called as the fans howled in protest.
”It was very physical,” Duncan said, ”especially against them. They’re athletic. They’re big. They’re strong. They’re very competitive.”
No foul was called when Duncan tumbled to the floor on San Antonio’s ensuing possession after three defenders charged at him. Popovich ran down the sideline grabbing his arm and yelling for a foul as Los Angeles sprinted up the court on the turnover, resulting in a technical. Duncan also protested the non-call, but was not whistled.
”If he did (get a technical), I deserved it,” Duncan said. ”I wasn’t going to argue that.”
The action sparked Duncan, who scored San Antonio’s next 10 points to tie the game at 57 with 1:35 left in the first half.
”We’ll probably see them down the way (in the playoffs),” Griffin said. ”We can learn from this. We’ll see what we did well and we’ll see what we didn’t do well. Hopefully we’ll learn from those mistakes. We’ll just try to take that and make it something positive.”
NOTES: Spurs G Manu Ginobili left midway through the first quarter with tightness in his right hamstring after tumbling out of bounds on a drive. Ginobili had two points on a pair of free throws in 3 minutes before departing. … Clippers G Chauncey Billups (strained right groin) missed his third straight game. He has missed 52 overall, including 35 with tendinitis in his left foot. Los Angeles is 35-17 without him. … Jordan smiled at Popovich before entering the game with 1 minute left in the first half, apparently knowing what the Spurs’ coach had planned. Jordan was fouled as soon as he entered, making 1 of 2 free throws. … Video highlighting Vinny Del Negro’s career with the Spurs was booed by the home crowd. The Los Angeles Clippers coach played six seasons in San Antonio beginning in 1992.