The defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs definitely weren't at their best Wednesday night. They credited the youthful Los Angeles Clippers with having a lot to do with that.
Tim Duncan struggled through an off night shooting to score 22 points and grab 17 rebounds as the Spurs held off the Clippers 99-94 for their fifth win in six games.
Duncan made just 8-of-24 field goal attempts, missing 11 straight shots starting late in the first quarter and finishing with 2:50 left in the third period.
"I thought they played great," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Clippers, who stayed in contention until the final minute. "They deserved to win the game as much as we did."
"Down the stretch, experience showed. The Clippers could have easily won the game if we don't make a couple stops down the stretch."
Duncan also gave the Clippers credit, calling them "incredibly athletic," but said he missed a lot of shots he usually makes.
"I just didn't shoot the ball well," he said. "They blocked a lot of my shots. A lot of (the misses) kept them in the game. That's the only thing I'm disappointed about, keeping them in the game like that."
"We played our hearts out tonight," said Odom, whose team was coming off a lackluster 94-79 loss to Utah two nights earlier. "And we didn't kill ourselves, either, by turning the ball over or making bad decisions. We didn't lose the game like that. We just got beat."
Anderson scored 12 points in the third quarter as the Clippers drew within one point after trailing 51-46 at halftime. Tyrone Nesby's foul shot with 10:28 remaining tied the game 74-all.
However, Johnson's driving layup and a 3-point shot by Jaren Jackson put the Spurs ahead for good, and Jackson made another 3-pointer with 5:48 left to make it 84-80.
Odom made two free throws with 59 seconds remaining to cut San Antonio's lead to 94-91. Porter made a foul shot 15 seconds later, Jackson made two more with 34 seconds to play, and Johnson added two with 22 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
"Our effort certainly was outstanding throughout the game and we did an awfully lot of things well," Clippers coach Chris Ford said. "But when you're going up against the defending champs, you've got to get a little luck in there as well. And we just couldn't get lucky with our shooting at the end."
The Clippers put up a terrific fight despite foul problems. Odom drew his fifth with 7:50 left in the third quarter, and Taylor and Anderson each had four by that time.
"They made shots, they made plays, they were going to the hole strong," said Robinson, who made just 3-of-9 field goal attempts. "That's a talented young team. They all did a nice job. I wouldn't say we played terrible, we just weren't sharp. I know I missed a lot of shots."
Duncan and Taylor each scored nine points in the first quarter, which ended with the Spurs on top 30-20. Taylor picked up his third foul 15 seconds into the second quarter and sat out the rest of the first half. He wound up playing only 24 minutes.
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