Duncan's late jumper lets Spurs edge Clippers

Ruben Martinez, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN ANTONIO -- In a microcosm of his season, Tim Duncan saved the best for last.
Tim Duncan hit a 16-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left despite being fouled by Willie Green, and sank the free throw as the Spurs held on for a 104-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at the AT&T Center.
Chris Paul missed a shot over Tony Parker at the buzzer.
Duncan continued his renaissance season with a season-high 34 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Spurs, who built its lead in the Western Conference in to 2 1/2 games with their win and Oklahoma City's loss at Memphis.
"I didn't want to be short (on that last shot), and my last three shots were short," Duncan said. "I kind of leaned in and prayed for the best. It's been a while since that shot fell for me, nice to see it go in."
The Clippers (49-23) dropped to a tie for third in the West with the idle Nuggets.
The Clippers are well on their way to their best season ever, with an 8 1/2 lead over Golden State for the Pacific Division lead. It would be the first time the Clippers would win that title. They also need one more win for their first 50-win season.
"We've just got to learn from this game," Paul said. "Hopefully we'll learn from the mistakes. We know we can play with them. We know we can beat them. We just have to do a better job of not making stupid mistakes and putting ourselves in a hole."
Duncan is averaging 20 points in March, including 23.6 and 10 blocks in the last six games for the Spurs (55-17). For the season, Duncan is averaging 17.4 points.
"You look at (Duncan's) line and just be amazed at what he's doing," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "But he's done the work to put himself in the position to have games like this and to have the season he's had. You couldn't be more proud of the guy tonight on what he did out there."
Paul had 14 points and 12 assists, perhaps motivated by his last outing against the Spurs. Paul had four points and three assists in that game.
It took him almost the whole first half to get started, though. Going back the last meeting between the Spurs and Clippers Feb. 21, Chris Paul went more than four quarters between baskets. He scored a basket with 3 minutes left in the first half of the last meeting, and scored with 46 seconds left in the first half tonight.
Blake Griffin had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Jamal Crawford added 16 points off the bench. Crawford tied the game at 99-99 with a wide open 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the game.
Parker added 24 points and eight assists for the Spurs, and Tiago Splitter scored 14 points.
Both teams went to the free throw line 21 times, but the Clippers only made 12 and the Spurs made 20. Even Duncan, who is a 69.2 percent free throw shooter, made all 10 of his attempts.
The Spurs lost Manu Ginobili in the first quarter with tightness in his right hamstring, and his availability in the next few games is not yet known.
NOTES: Chauncey Billups missed the game with a strained right groin. ... Gary Neal played for the first time in five games and scored eight points in nine minutes. ... Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and his assistant Marc Iavaroni both spent time in their playing careers with the Spurs. ... While the Clippers are looking for their first 50-win season, the Spurs have hit 50 wins for 14 consecutive seasons. ... Parker is playing through a sprained right finger suffered against the Nuggets on Wednesday night. ... Popovich got a lot of laughs when asked to sum up the competitiveness of the Clippers' Chris Paul before the game: "He's a mean, nasty man, and he's a pain in the (butt). I don't know if there's anybody in the league more competitive than that little dude. They must have stolen all his toys when he was a kid, because he's getting back at the world, because he's mad at the world once he steps on the court."

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