SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A healthy Tim Duncan is worth more to San
Antonio than home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Duncan returned after missing 12 games with a sprained ankle and
scored 17 points, but played just 3 minutes of the fourth quarter
in the Utah Jazz's 93-91 win over the Spurs on Wednesday night.
The loss dropped the Spurs 1½ games behind Phoenix for the top
record in the Western Conference. Phoenix has four games remaining
to San Antonio's three, but the Spurs will happily settle for the
No. 2 seed if they know Duncan is healthy.
"I don't want to fall for fool's gold now and put him in a
position where that ankle's too weak and have something happen to
him," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Sure we wanted to
put him in, but I don't think that would have been wise."
The Spurs could have used Duncan in the final minute. Utah won
it on Mehmet Okur's layup with 2.4 seconds remaining. San Antonio
had a final chance, but Manu Ginobili missed a baseline jumper just
before the horn.
Okur finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds and beat the Spurs
for the second time this season. Okur also scored on an offensive
rebound at the buzzer in January, snapping Utah's 18-game losing
streak to San Antonio.
"That's my job. I try to grab every rebound," Okur said. "I
was underneath. I just grabbed the ball and made the basket."
Duncan, who had seven rebounds, said the ankle felt "pretty
good," but he was not on the court for the frenzied finish despite
his best lobbying efforts.
"I was pushing for a little more time. Pop's the intelligent
one and luckily he's the coach and I'm not," Duncan said. "I'm
going to take my time and really get back into our rhythm and make
sure that I'm not pushing it too hard and hurting myself."
Matt Harpring scored 17 points, including two critical free
throws with 14 seconds left. Harpring put Utah up 91-88 and it
looked like the Jazz had all but clinched it, until Ginobili went
1-for-2 from the line and Nazr Mohammed grabbed the rebound and
dunked it to tie the game with 7.5 seconds to play.
Okur felt Mohammed knocked him down to get to the ball and
remained on the floor for several moments, looking to the officials
for a call he didn't get. He made sure it wouldn't matter at the
Gordan Giricek, who scored 15 points, took the inbounds pass
from Harpring and drove for a layup which was blocked by Robert
Horry. Okur grabbed the loose ball and banked it in and Utah beat
San Antonio for just the second time in 20 games.
"That was a fun game," Harpring said. "It's frustrating
because you wonder why we can't play like this all the time."
Duncan played 20 minutes, 4 more than the Spurs wanted him to
after his 3½-week layoff. But after San Antonio committed 10 fouls
in the opening quarter and fell behind by 15 points early in the
second, the Spurs needed the two-time MVP to help with the
"It was great just to get back on the floor and run up and
down, even just for a little bit," Duncan said.
San Antonio got Utah's lead down to four twice before finally
overtaking the Jazz early in the fourth quarter. Tony Parker, who
had 17 points and five assists, converted a three-point play and
Ginobili hit a 3-pointer just before the horn to get the Spurs to
68-65 at the end of the third.
Duncan made it a one-point game with a layup, then after Jarron
Collins missed an open layup for Utah, Beno Udrih drove for a layup
to give San Antonio its first lead since the opening quarter. Udrih
quickly added another layup after a turnover, but Utah responded
before San Antonio could pull away.
Okur converted a three-point play to tie it at 73 with 7:47
remaining, then spun under the basket for a reverse layup to regain
the lead for Utah and get the small crowd back into the game.
Howard Eisley added another layup and Giricek hit a short jumper to
make it a 9-0 run.
Okur finally put Utah up for good at 89-88 with a 20-foot jumper
with about a minute to play.
The Spurs were 8-4 during Duncan's absence. ... San Antonio
had 17 free throws to Utah's two in the third quarter. ... Kirk
Snyder returned to the Jazz after a one-game suspension for
fighting with Dallas' Jerry Stackhouse after a loss Saturday.