Spurs 102, Bulls 99

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SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The San Antonio Spurs are still winning games, but lately it hasn’t been pretty to watch.

Friday night was no exception, with San Antonio squandering a 17-point second-half lead to the Chicago Bulls before Tim Duncan’s tie-breaking basket in the final minute led the Spurs to a 102-99 victory.

“We’ve had a hard time keeping leads,” acknowledged Tony Parker, who finished with 25 points and eight assists. “It’s never good to lose a lead, but we got the win.”

On Wednesday night, San Antonio let a 21-point lead in the third dwindle to six down the stretch in a victory over Toronto, and two nights earlier, the Spurs needed a buzzer-beating jumper by Duncan in a 94-92 win in Cleveland.

Coach Gregg Popovich says these tight games benefit the Spurs as the playoffs get closer, though he could do without the lapses that make them necessary.

“At the beginning of the year, things came too easy. We got into a comfort zone,” said Popovich, whose team has the NBA’s best record at 45-13. “This sort of game, you start realizing anyone can beat anyone. It’s about bringing it every night.”

Chicago coach Scott Skiles gambled with a three-guard lineup at the end to get another shooter on the floor.

“Our margin of error against a team like this is small,” he said. “We tried to come in and steal this game, but we weren’t able to finish it.”

The Bulls went ahead 94-92 on a corner jumper by Ben Gordon with 2:05 remaining, but Manu Ginobili evened it up again with a high-arching runner in the lane at 1:35.

Duncan, who finished with 31 points, made his go-ahead 18-footer with 38 seconds remaining. He and Ginobili each followed with a pair of free throws to make 100-94.

Gordon halved that lead by hitting a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left, but Ginobili was then fouled by Tyson Chandler and he made both free throws.

Ginobili scored 19 points, 13 of them in the second half. Duncan went 12-for-20 from the field and had 13 rebounds. His point total was his highest since he had 34 against Cleveland in early December.

Gordon and Othella Harrington paced Chicago with 20 points each, and Andres Nocioni finished with 13, all of them in the first half. Gordon scored all of his points in the second half, 15 of them in the fourth quarter.

Chicago’s first six possessions consisted of two missed shots and four turnovers, but the Bulls then went 11-for-14 from the field while holding the Spurs to 28-percent shooting in the first quarter. Nocioni scored nine points.

San Antonio fell behind 31-22 early in the second before Duncan made a running layup for his first points of the period. He would score 15 more before halftime, including a dunk midway through the quarter that put the Spurs ahead 34-33 and a putback with 0.2 seconds left to make it 55-46 at the break.

Duncan’s 17 points in the second nearly matched the 20 scored by Chicago as a team, and his seven rebounds were two more than the Bulls’ total in the period.

The Spurs extended their lead to 63-46 in the third, but the Bulls went on a 16-6 run to pull within seven late in the quarter.


San Antonio has eight straight wins over the Bulls, going back to December 2000. The Spurs’ last home loss to Chicago came in March 1998. … Duncan made all seven of his free throws. In the previous three games, he had gone 14-for-25 (56 percent) at the line. … The Bulls placed rookie Luol Deng on the injured list Friday because of a sprained right ankle that is expected to sideline him two to four weeks. Chicago activated guard Frank Williams to take Deng’s place on the roster.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
A. Nocioni A. Nocioni
4-6,  13 Pts
7 Rebs, 2 Assists
 San Antonio
T. Duncan T. Duncan
12-20,  31 Pts
13 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders