SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Tim Duncan didn’t want to be congratulated after the San Antonio Spurs clinched the top playoff seed in the Western Conference and a third straight Midwest Division title Monday night.
“It is nice, but I think we’re going to go out and try to win this thing,” Duncan said after scoring 21 points in a 91-83 win over the Utah Jazz.
Winning for the 12th time in 13 games and beating the Jazz for the 13th straight time, the Spurs made sure Wednesday’s home game against Dallas won’t matter. Dallas, which opened the season 14-0 but has struggled lately, can still tie the Spurs by winning at San Antonio on Wednesday, but the Spurs hold the tiebreaker with a better conference record.
“We knew there were a lot of games left early on in the season when they jumped out to that big lead,” said Duncan, who scored 15 in the third quarter and finished with 15 rebounds and nine assists.
“I’m proud of the team, but it’s just beginning,” Parker said. “We’re going to make a run for it. Our goal is not to win the conference or get the No. 1 seed, it’s to win the championship.”
Karl Malone led the Jazz with 20 points and seven rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko added 18 points off the bench and Matt Harpring scored 12 for Utah, which hasn’t beaten San Antonio in more than three years.
“We ran into the same thing we always run into. They are tough defensively. They really make it difficult,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “One thing they do as well as anyone we play against is they take us right out of our offense.”
About the best news for the Jazz on Monday was that there was no chance of facing the Spurs in the playoffs. Utah, which hasn’t beaten San Antonio since Feb. 6, 2000, closes the regular season Wednesday at Sacramento, where the Jazz also will begin the playoffs this weekend.
San Antonio led 44-37 at halftime and pulled away early in the third as the Jazz struggled from the field. Utah didn’t make a field goal in the third until Kirilenko’s tip-in cut San Antonio’s lead to 52-41 with 7 minutes remaining.
Duncan went 6-for-7 in the quarter to put the Spurs up 69-54 entering the fourth, when the Jazz made one final late push.
Kirilenko scored seven during a 9-2 run that got Utah to 81-76 on Kirilenko’s 3-pointer. Parker responded with a layup, but fueled the Jazz rally by getting a technical for taunting. John Stockton made the free throw with 1:56 left and Greg Ostertag followed with a two-handed dunk that made it 83-79 San Antonio.
Parker made another jumper, then Malone got the Jazz back within four points, but Ginobili ended the comeback with a 3-pointer that made it 88-81 with about 50 seconds left.
“We kept fighting back but it seemed like they just kept making their shots at the end,” Harpring said.
Stockton, who may have been playing in his last regular-season home game, finished with 10 assists. The 41-year-old will decide this summer whether to retire.
“I’m not thinking about any of that other stuff. It’s hard enough as it isjust concentrating on playing,” Stockton said.
San Antonio’s David Robinson, who is retiring after the season, received a standing ovation during pregame introductions. He finished with four points and three rebounds. … After Malik Rose’s tip-in capped a 10-0 Spurs run that tied it at 20-all, Harpring hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Jazz the lead at the end of the first. … Utah coach Jerry Sloan was called for a technical with 4:27 left in the second quarter. Sloan felt Ostertag was fouled while trying to get a shot off before the 24-second clockexpired.