“Big Shot Rob” hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 30 seconds left to seal San Antonio’s 96-89 victory over the Nuggets on Monday night that gave the Spurs a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
The Spurs can close out the best-of-seven series at home on Wednesday night.
The 36-year-old Horry more than lived up to his reputation for coming through under playoff pressure on this trip to the Rockies—his swipe of an inbounds pass and subsequent 3-pointer sparked the Spurs’ win in Game 3.
“He’s been known to do that,” deadpanned Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s saved us several times.”
After blowing a 10-point second-half lead, the Nuggets had pulled to 90-89 on Steve Blake’s jumper which looked like a 3 but his toe was on the line. Following a timeout, Tony Parker took the inbounds pass, penetrated the lane and kicked out to Horry all alone in the right corner.
Marcus Camby rushed to put up a hand but Horry’s rainbow shot swished to give the Spurs a 93-89 lead.
“It wasn’t easy,” Horry said. “I saw Camby coming at me hard as heck and I had to get the ball way over him.”
Horry didn’t know it was good until it snapped the net.
“It felt good. Camby gave it a hell of a test so I had to shoot it high. I thought it was going to be short, but luckily it went in,” he said.
Tim Duncan said he knew the shot was true. Then again, he had a unique view.
“Someone was boxing me out and I was under the rim,” Duncan said. “I looked up through the rim and see the ball coming straight through.”
Where does this one rank in Horry’s list of postseason money shots?
“It doesn’t even make the top five or top ten,” Horry said. “There was too much time on the clock.”
Not enough for the Nuggets.
“When they needed a big shot, he delivered,” Allen Iverson said, “and that one hurt us.”
It was just the second basket of the night for Horry.
Duncan led the Spurs with 22 points, although he was frustrated at only getting to the free throw line six times, while Manu Ginobili added 18 and Parker 15.
Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 29 points and Iverson had 22, although he had another poor shooting performance—9-for-25.
“I just didn’t play well,” said Iverson, who is 25-of-70 in the last three games. “I wasn’t in my game. I had so many good looks and so many easy baskets that I missed, it just was frustrating tonight and it’s something I have to work through. If I knew how to adjust to it, I would.”
Horry’s shot sealed the win but it was Bruce Bowen’s big play that started the Spurs’ surge.
With the game tied at 85, Bowen stole Blake’s outlet pass at the top of the circle and raced downcourt for the jam that gave San Antonio the lead for good with 2:58 remaining.
“I saw that Blake was trying to pass the ball down low and he saw me sliding down. So he tried to skip the ball and I just happened to be there,” said Bowen, who was the leading vote-getter in the NBA’s All-Defensive team announced earlier Monday.
Trying to make up for his mistake, Blake misfired a 3-pointer and Duncan hit one of two free throws to give the Spurs a three-point lead.
Blake’s jumper with 38 seconds left made it a one-point game and that’s when Horry came up big once again.
The Nuggets looked like they were in control at 71-62 when Anthony was called for his fourth offensive foul. Unlike the first three charges, this one looked questionable as Horry didn’t appear to be set when Anthony barreled into him.
No matter. Anthony went to the bench with 91 seconds left in the third quarter and the Spurs went to work.
Horry hit his first 3-pointer and Duncan made a short jumper to get the Spurs started on their run.
Ginobili’s step-back 3-pointer over Linas Kleiza put the Spurs up 74-73, their first lead since 38-37 and capped their 12-2 run.
Duncan, who was at the center of the officiating flare up that got Joey Crawford suspended, grew increasingly frustrated at not getting calls. After Camby, who had 17 boards and four blocks, slapped away one of his shots, Duncan stared down official Bill Kennedy for 10 seconds as his teammates walked past him to the bench during a timeout. Kennedy ignored him and didn’t whistle a technical the crowd was calling for.
Duncan, who wasn’t called for a foul in 41 minutes of Game 3, picked up his first foul Monday night in the opening minute of the third quarter and Nene sank two free throws to give the Nuggets their biggest lead, 52-42.
The Spurs only buckled down.
“It’s great to have an experienced squad like we do. That helps a lot,” Duncan said. “We don’t seem to get rattled. We fight through whatever is happening.”
The Spurs haven’t blown a 3-1 lead since 1979, and the Nuggets have never overcome a 3-1 deficit.
“The experience we’re going through is good for us,” Denver coach George Karl insisted. “The energy, the intensity, the understanding how hard it is to win a playoff game, all that has been good for us. It doesn’t feel good now. In time, it will be good for us.”
Nuggets F Reggie Evans missed the game to attend his great-grandmother’s funeral in Pensacola, Fla. … San Antonio hasn’t allowed the Nuggets more than 10 fastbreak points in any game.