The San Antonio Spurs didn't let a third straight game slip away in the final moments. But boy, was it close.
Gnawed by last-second losses in their previous two outings, the
Spurs got redemption when Roger Mason made an 18-footer with 23.9
seconds left and watched Monte Ellis clank a running 3-pointer at
the buzzer to escape with a 107-106 win over the Golden State
Warriors on Tuesday night.
Tony Parker scored 30 points and Tim Duncan scored 13 of his 21
in the fourth quarter, when the Spurs blew a late six-point lead but survived at the end.
It was thanks to Mason, who scored the last of his 24 points when he took a handoff from Duncan, rolled to the top of key and swished the game-winner.
"Definitely a relief," Mason said. "Those last few games stung."
Those included an 80-77 loss to Boston on Friday - when the
Spurs missed their last six free throws in the final 2:32 - and an
87-85 defeat Sunday against Houston that cost them the Southwest
Division lead to the Rockets. They could move back atop the
division should the Rockets lose later Tuesday to Utah.
This one could've been another stinger. Ellis missed one chance
to win the game on a jumper with 5.9 seconds left but missed, then
the shot as time expired. He led the Warriors 27 points.
"It was good," Ellis said of final try. "Brought it up and let it go."
In all, five of San Antonio's last six games have been decided
by three points or fewer. They won only two, and have fallen to
11-6 in games decided by three or fewer points after once being 9-2
in that category.
The Spurs, who have lost three of five, broke a two-game skid
and avoided dropping three straight for only the third time this
"We're obviously going through a rough patch," Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "We can't seem to sustain what we're tying to
do offensively, and Golden State's a high-scoring team."
San Antonio led 103-97 with 3:01 left before the Warriors
regained the lead with a half-minute remaining. Swarming Duncan in
the paint, Golden State stripped the ball and Kelenna Azubuike
scooped it up to race down the court for an easy layup with 33.9
That put the Warriors ahead 106-105, but not for long. Mason answered the next time down.
Warriors coach Don Nelson said he thought Ellis could've gotten a better look than the long 3-pointer he fired at the buzzer.
"I thought Monte could have gotten to the rim, certainly in five seconds get to the rim," Nelson said. "But anyways, that was what he chose to do. They made a big shot and we didn't. That's really the bottom line."
Azubuike finished with 13 for the Warriors, who have lost 17 of
their last 19 road games. They have two more left on their
four-game road swing with a stop in Dallas on Wednesday.
The Spurs head to Atlanta on Wednesday and may face the Hawks
without Duncan. Popovich is trying to preserve his 32-year-old
forward for the playoffs, and already sat out Duncan in a
back-to-back games earlier this month.
He gave no indication Tuesday whether Duncan would play against
Golden State played again without Jamal Crawford, who missed his
fourth straight game in what has become a bizarre subplot with
Warriors coach Don Nelson. In the past week, Crawford has been
benched, allowed back, and benched himself - all while being
Nelson doesn't want Crawford back next season and sat him on
March 17 in favor of playing youngsters. He wanted Crawford back
into the lineup two games later, but Crawford said he wanted more
practice time before jumping back in.
Golden State's next practice won't be until Thursday, after the Spurs play Dallas on Wednesday night.
Not that the Warriors didn't keep pace in San Antonio without him.
Facing the NBA's second-best defense, Golden State went into halftime ahead 54-52 with the league's worst. It was a seesaw match
the rest of the way.
Ellis hit a jumper to put Golden State ahead 89-87 with under 7 minutes left before Duncan answered to knot it back up. They traded baskets before the Spurs went ahead by three when Parker converted a 3-point play before the frenzied finish.
The Warriors fell to 0-3 this season against the Spurs. They'll get one more shot at home next month.
Little-used Spurs G Jacque Vaughn played two minutes in the third quarter, recording an assist in just his 24th appearance of the season.