NEW YORK (AP)—Down three points in the final seconds, the San Antonio Spurs showed their championship mettle by calmly running a play designed to trick an opponent.
And the hapless New York Knicks fell for it.
Michael Finley made the tying 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in regulation and the Spurs dominated overtime Friday night in a 99-93 victory over the Knicks, who matched a season high with their eighth straight loss.
Finley was wide open in the corner when Renaldo Balkman inexplicably cheated toward the middle on Manu Ginobili’s drive toward the basket—even though the Spurs needed a 3—then got picked by Tim Duncan and couldn’t get back.
“That comes down to experience,” Spurs veteran Robert Horry said. “Playing a young guy, Balkman kind of bit watching the ball, watching the drive, trying to clog the middle to get the rebound and Timmy set a great pick on him.”
Duncan had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Spurs, who trailed by 18 points in the third quarter but barely broke a sweat in OT, scoring the first seven points. Finley finished with 17 points, tossing in another 3 in the extra period for a 95-88 lead against the dispirited Knicks, who missed their seven overtime shots.
Finley said he wasn’t surprised he was open because he “kind of sensed that (Balkman) played the play wrong when I was taking the ball out and I was able to get a good look at it.”
“I think experience helped us on that particular play,” Finley said.
Making matters worse for the Knicks, coach Isiah Thomas said afterward he had talked to his players about fouling if a San Antonio player drove inside the arc.
“You have to sometimes learn difficult lessons in this league,” Thomas said. “The other night I talked about know-how and I thought their experience, they knew how to win the basketball game, knew what to do, and we’ll get there.”
Ginobili scored 20 points as San Antonio won its fourth straight and improved to 4-2 on its nine-game road trip, which now moves on to one of its marquee games: a visit to league-leading Boston on Sunday. Horry finished with 13 points, hitting three straight 3-pointers in the second half that wiped away the remainder of the Knicks’ lead.
Playing without starting point guard Tony Parker, home resting his injured left ankle, the Spurs got off to a miserable start, scoring a season-low 32 points and trailing by 16 at the half.
The Knicks played without starting forward Quentin Richardson (sprained right ankle) and key reserve Nate Robinson (upper respiratory infection). First-round pick Wilson Chandler, who had played in only seven games—none since Jan. 13—made his first career start.
The Knicks had wasted a number of second-half leads during their current skid, but this one was especially painful.
Horry nailed his third straight 3-pointer, putting San Antonio on top 65-62 1 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter. But after a basket by David Lee, Crawford buried consecutive 3s for a five-point lead with 9:12 left.
Crawford hit another 3 for a nine-point advantage midway through the quarter, and the Knicks seemed safe. But the Spurs charged back again, pulling to 86-85 when Duncan scored inside.
Balkman, shooting 38.6 percent from the foul line on the season, made two free throws with 8.5 seconds to play to make it a three-point game—then committed his defensive gaffe that allowed the Spurs to tie it.
Ginobili said he had no intention of shooting.
“It shows you why they’re champions,” Randolph said. “One of the toughest losses … it’s really depressing.”
Duncan scored 15 seconds into the extra period, the Knicks kept misfiring, and soon the crowd that cheered most of the game had turned on the home team.
“The air was kind of popped out of the balloon,” Thomas said. “I said to the team the thing that I admire about San Antonio, that’s the reason why they’re champions. they don’t hang their heads. They make a mistake and they stay in it. And I thought we kind of put our heads down out there the first couple of minutes in the overtime and we didn’t really bounce back the way I would have liked for us to.”
Thomas said before the game he didn’t know if Robinson would travel to Milwaukee for Saturday’s game. … Popovich on his friend Larry Brown, who hasn’t coached since he was fired in June 2006 after the Knicks went 23-59 in his only season. The Hall of Famer has said he wants to coach again. “He’s a hell of a coach, he wants to coach, it’s in his blood, and there’s no doubt that he’s sincere about wanting to coach again and he will be coaching again,” Popovich said. “Where, who knows? That’s what he wants to do, he’s great at it and hopefully we’ll all see him again.”