Spurs top Pacers with last minute dunk
By PAUL J. WEBER,
Associated Press Writer
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Gregg Popovich has won plenty more important games with the San Antonio Spurs, but Tim Duncan gave his coach a memorable 700th career victory.
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert will likely remember this one, too.
Duncan dunked over Hibbert with 4.6 seconds left after having his first shot blocked by the second-year big man, and T.J. Ford missed a fadeaway jumper as time expired to cinch a thrilling 100-99 victory for the Spurs on Saturday night.
Duncan let out a triumphant roar after scoring the final two of his 19 points and getting the last of his 16 rebounds, which was corralling Hibbert’s block just a split-second before springing up for a rarity in Duncan’s stellar career – a game-winning dunk.
“I wanted to try to take it to the glass and see what happens, and Hibbert made a very good defensive play,” Duncan said. “I saw the guy come from the corner and tried to stretch it out, and he still got a piece of it, and it just came right back to me. It was a little bit of luck.”
Hibbert, who scored 20 points and otherwise held his own against the perennial All-Star, said he felt like he let his team down.
“I blocked it and he got it right back,” Hibbert said. “I should have made a second effort to try and get another block but I was off-balance and he dunked it and finished it for his team.”
The Pacers, on the other hand, couldn’t finish after building a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Hibbert put the Pacers up 99-98 on a tip-in with 1:12 remaining, but on the next Indiana possession he couldn’t fight off Duncan to grab a missed Ford jumper with 10.2 seconds left.
“If I would have gotten that, I think it would have sealed the game,” Hibbert said.
Troy Murphy led the Pacers with 21 points. Indiana, which rallied from a halftime deficit by ending the third quarter on a 21-8 burst, has not won in San Antonio in seven years.
Reserve Luther Head scored 14 points for Indiana, and Mike Dunleavy added 11.
Popovich became the 16th coach in NBA history to reach 700 wins and is among seven active coaches to hit the milestone. He credited the win to the player chiefly responsible for most of them over the last 13 years.
“As has been all season, Tim Duncan is our most consistent player,” Popovich said. “He’s been fantastic.”
Tony Parker added 15 points and Keith Bogans had 14 for the Spurs, who continued feasting on losing teams while being mostly outplayed against clubs with winning records. All but two of San Antonio’s wins this season have come against teams with losing records, while the Spurs are 2-9 against winning teams.
One of those losses was earlier this month in Utah, where the Spurs lost 104-101. Duncan also had a chance in that game to take the go-ahead shot with the clock winding down, but he instead passed out of a double-team. Parker took the pass but missed an open jumper.
“I kind of gave it up in Utah, and I didn’t want to give it up tonight,” Duncan said.
The Spurs improved to 12-1 against teams who entered Saturday with losing records. That said, the next three weeks bode well for the Spurs: Eight of their 12 opponents have losing records, leading up to their first meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 12.
The win wasn’t all good news for the Spurs. Matt Bonner fractured the ring finger in his shooting hand in the first half and did not return. Bonner, who scored seven points and hit two shots after appearing to hurt his hand, was to be re-evaluated Monday.
NOTES: Indiana F Jeff Foster left the game in the first quarter with a sore lower back and did not return. … San Antonio is 6-1 at home against Eastern Conference teams. …The Spurs made just 23 of 38 free-throw attempts.
Updated December 20, 2009