SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs are still winning
games, but lately it hasn't been pretty to watch.
Friday night was no exception, with San Antonio squandering a
17-point second-half lead to the Chicago Bulls before Tim Duncan's
tie-breaking basket in the final minute led the Spurs to a 102-99
"We've had a hard time keeping leads," acknowledged Tony
Parker, who finished with 25 points and eight assists. "It's never
good to lose a lead, but we got the win."
On Wednesday night, San Antonio let a 21-point lead in the third
dwindle to six down the stretch in a victory over Toronto, and two
nights earlier, the Spurs needed a buzzer-beating jumper by Duncan
in a 94-92 win in Cleveland.
Coach Gregg Popovich says these tight games benefit the Spurs as
the playoffs get closer, though he could do without the lapses that
make them necessary.
"At the beginning of the year, things came too easy. We got
into a comfort zone," said Popovich, whose team has the NBA's best
record at 45-13. "This sort of game, you start realizing anyone
can beat anyone. It's about bringing it every night."
Chicago coach Scott Skiles gambled with a three-guard lineup at
the end to get another shooter on the floor.
"Our margin of error against a team like this is small," he
said. "We tried to come in and steal this game, but we weren't
able to finish it."
The Bulls went ahead 94-92 on a corner jumper by Ben Gordon with
2:05 remaining, but Manu Ginobili evened it up again with a
high-arching runner in the lane at 1:35.
Duncan, who finished with 31 points, made his go-ahead 18-footer
with 38 seconds remaining. He and Ginobili each followed with a
pair of free throws to make 100-94.
Gordon halved that lead by hitting a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds
left, but Ginobili was then fouled by Tyson Chandler and he made
both free throws.
Ginobili scored 19 points, 13 of them in the second half. Duncan
went 12-for-20 from the field and had 13 rebounds. His point total
was his highest since he had 34 against Cleveland in early
Gordon and Othella Harrington paced Chicago with 20 points each,
and Andres Nocioni finished with 13, all of them in the first half.
Gordon scored all of his points in the second half, 15 of them in
the fourth quarter.
Chicago's first six possessions consisted of two missed shots
and four turnovers, but the Bulls then went 11-for-14 from the
field while holding the Spurs to 28-percent shooting in the first
quarter. Nocioni scored nine points.
San Antonio fell behind 31-22 early in the second before Duncan
made a running layup for his first points of the period. He would
score 15 more before halftime, including a dunk midway through the
quarter that put the Spurs ahead 34-33 and a putback with 0.2
seconds left to make it 55-46 at the break.
Duncan's 17 points in the second nearly matched the 20 scored by
Chicago as a team, and his seven rebounds were two more than the
Bulls' total in the period.
The Spurs extended their lead to 63-46 in the third, but the
Bulls went on a 16-6 run to pull within seven late in the quarter.
San Antonio has eight straight wins over the Bulls, going
back to December 2000. The Spurs' last home loss to Chicago came in
March 1998. ... Duncan made all seven of his free throws. In the
previous three games, he had gone 14-for-25 (56 percent) at the
line. ... The Bulls placed rookie Luol Deng on the injured list
Friday because of a sprained right ankle that is expected to
sideline him two to four weeks. Chicago activated guard Frank
Williams to take Deng's place on the roster.