Duncan's dunk with 5 seconds left seals win against Pacers; Pop reaches 700th win
By Tim Price, for NBA.com
Posted Sunday December 20, 2009 12:36AM
SAN ANTONIO (NBA.com exclusive) -- Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs to victory for the 700th time on Saturday, and everybody who's reached that career milestone has made a defensive adjustment or two in their lifetime.
So after T.J. Ford hit all four of his shots and handed out three assists during the Pacers' 38-point third quarter, Popovich had to come up with something when Indiana headed into the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead. He ended up throwing Tim Duncan at Ford.
With Duncan switching on to Ford off the pick, the Spurs were able to slow down Ford and the Pacers and won for the fifth time in six games by defeating Indiana 100-99 at AT&T Center.
Though Ford was taken out of the starting lineup for only the second time this season, he handled most of the minutes at point guard and had the final shot. With an isolation that kept Duncan away from interfering again and the Pacers down by one, Ford got off a 16-footer over Spurs defender George Hill that bounced off the rim and missed with one second left.
"That was a win you would categorize as an ugly win, but we don't give them back," Popovich said. "We're happy to have this one."
They got it mostly because of Duncan. Not only did he have eight points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter (he finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds that were split evenly between the offensive and defensive end), he was the crucial piece in stopping Ford.
After Ford led Indiana to that 38-point third quarter (just short of the 39 points Phoenix scored Tuesday in a Spurs' opponent season-high), Duncan's help defense limited Ford to 2-for-7 shooting and just one assist in the fourth. Indiana's 38-point third quarter production was more than cut in half as San Antonio outscored the Pacers 30-16 in the final quarter.
"They made an adjustment to the pick-and-roll plays," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "They started to switch, and it stopped T.J. from continuing to knock down the shots. It kind of slowed down that play, and we had to go to other plays. They made an adjustment to a play that was hurting them all night."
The Pacers went 6-for-17 in the fourth.
Duncan also produced on the game-winning play that started when he called timeout after grabbing Ford's missed jumper with 10 seconds to go. He received the inbound pass from Manu Ginobili and drove on Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert responded by blocking his sixth shot of the night when he rejected Duncan down low. But the ball went right back to Duncan, and he put it back with a dunk over Hibbert with 4.6 seconds left.
"I felt like I let the team down," Hibbert said. "I should have made a second effort to try and tip another block. But I was off balance, and he dunked it and he finished it for his team."
Hibbert, who came back into the game with just less than five minutes remaining after Troy Murphy picked up his fifth foul, had another chance to help finish off the Spurs. That one came on Duncan's rebound. With Duncan out putting pressure on Ford's shot from 10 feet, it gave Hibbert room near the basket for the offensive rebound. But Duncan went back down and got his hands around the ball for the timeout.
"I had a hand on it, and I should have been able to come up with it," Hibbert said. "That should have been mine. That was one of the pivotal moments. If I had it, that would have sealed the game."
The Spurs (14-10) have defeated Indiana eight-straight times at home. As for Popovich, he becomes the 16th coach (and among seven active coaches) to reach 700 wins. But only two other coaches have done it with one team (Jerry Sloan and Red Auerbach).
Indiana, playing again without Danny Grainger, saw the injury problem get worse when Jeff Foster aggravated the soreness in his lower back. Foster missed Thursday's game against Charlotte with the same problem.
Popovich called it an ugly win in part because the team lost Matt Bonner to a bone break in his right hand (it's his shooting hand). Bonner, eighth in the league in 3-point shooting, will be evaluated again on Monday to see how much time he will miss.
Bonner scored seven points as the Spurs jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter. But that was all Bonner played, and when the Spurs went up by 13 with 3:36 to go in the first half, they suddenly went cold.
From that point to the end of the third quarter San Antonio was outscored 46-20 and shot 7-for-29 from the floor and 5-for-14 from the foul line.
Certainly an ugly, hard to watch game. But Duncan came through at the end with a putback dunk to secure the victory. Not to mention a Richard Jefferson reverse dunk in the early 4th that is likely to make the highlights.
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