Tim Duncan has come up big in crunch time hundreds of times having being with coach Gregg Popovich for 17 seasons.
Danny Green, a relative newcomer, is fitting in just fine in just his fourth season with the San Antonio Spurs.
Green didn’t miss a shot in a 22-point performance that helped the Spurs defeat the Dallas Mavericks 116-107 Thursday night.
Taking advantage of a weakened Dallas frontcourt, Duncan finished 21 points and 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double this season and 768th of his career.
"Danny Green was on fire from 3, and we were able to build up a little lead and hang on," Popovich said.
Green has started 26 of the Spurs’ 30 games this season, but he didn’t even come off the bench until 3 minutes remained in the first quarter Thursday.
Less than a minute later, he made three free throws to tie the game 18-18. San Antonio didn’t trail again. Green finished the game 7 for 7 from the field, including five 3-pointers. He scored 11 points in the second quarter.
"I got into a little rhythm going to the free throw line," Green said. "They just kept finding me when I was open. It got easier when we got some stops and steals and in transition. That’s how I get most of my open looks."
Green said coming off the bench sometimes helps him get better looks.
"That’s part of what Pop is trying to experiment with, to see how it goes," Green said. "See who works with what."
Duncan is one of the constants.
The Spurs appeared to have the game in hand with a 100-85 lead, but the Mavericks went on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit to three points with 3:55 to play.
On San Antonio’s next four trips down the court, Duncan scored three baskets and passed to Green for his final 3-pointer and a 110-103 lead.
"They made their run, made some turnovers and got back into the game, but we were able to make some good plays, pick and roll, got them to suck in one time and got it out to Danny," Duncan said. "Danny knocks down a big 3 or us. Good execution down the stretch."
The 6-foot-11 Duncan was working most of the night against 6-7 DeJuan Blair because the Mavericks’ taller centers, Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright, had an undisclosed illness.
Dalembert played 24 minutes, but Wright didn’t dress.
"Anywhere close to the basket, it’s pretty much two points for (Duncan)," said Dallas’ Vince Carter, who scored 20 points. "You just hope he has an off night.
Popovich was even more impressed by Duncan’s work on defense.
"He was tremendous at the defensive end, he was changing shots, blocking shots, rebounded and he really protected the rim for us tonight."
Tony Parker, who scored 23 points for the Spurs, agreed that in the end it came down to defense.
"They had a pretty good zone. We struggled for a couple of possessions," the Spurs’ point guard said. "At the end, we got it back and we got the stops that we needed to win the game.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 25 points and Monta Ellis scored 23, including nine during the 12-0 run. Blair had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
After Green tied the game with his first-quarter free throws, Manu Ginobili scored five consecutive points on a 3-point shot and a layup with an assist from Boris Diaw.
Dallas began the game 3 for 10 from the foul line before Nowitzki hit two at 7:26 of the second. That began a streak of 21 in a row, and Dallas finished 24 for 31.
The Mavericks scored the first five points of the second half on Jose Calderon’s 3-pointer and Nowitzki’s fadeaway to pull within 58-56.
A 9-0 run, with the first six points by Parker, boosted the Spurs’ lead to 71-60.
For the third time, San Antonio finished a quarter with a seven-point lead, this time at 84-77.
"I thought we did a pretty good job to get close," Carter said. "We were able to give ourselves a chance to win."
NOTES: The illness that struck Wright and Dalembert has been going through Dallas’ locker room. … The Spurs are 7-2 in the second of back-to-back games this season. … San Antonio’s 13-3 road record is the NBA’s best. Portland is second at 12-3. … Center Tiago Splitter started for the Spurs despite a sore hamstring. He scored 12 points, all in the first half.