SAN ANTONIO Check out Tim Duncan's phenomenal stat line from Game 1 of the NBA Finals: at least three celebratory muscle flexes, one screaming argument, countless words of encouragement and the starring role in one big win for his San Antonio Spurs.
The taciturn two-time MVP wanted to be a louder leader in this postseason, and the tone of his play was easy to hear Wednesday night. Duncan was vocal and enthusiastic, slapping high-fives and yelling as the Spurs easily beat the New Jersey Nets 101-89.
Duncan also had 32 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocked shots, six assists and three steals. He scored 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the second half as the Spurs took another big lead and then held it with minimal drama, avoiding another of the come-from-ahead losses that have plagued the Spurs this spring.
So must the Nets deal with a less kind, less gentle Duncan as he pursues his second championship ring? He isn't telling.
''I don't think I played any different,'' Duncan said. ''If it was, it's because of the crowd and the situation. What's not to be excited about?''
Game 2 is Friday night.
The Nets hadn't lost since April 26, but their 10-game winning streak was snapped decisively in their worst loss of the postseason. San Antonio largely stopped New Jersey's fast break, and the Spurs' zone defense forced the Nets into many outside shots they couldn't make.
The Spurs' frontcourt dominated undersized New Jersey, with soon-to-be-retired center David Robinson getting 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Tony Parker even outplayed Jason Kidd, getting 16 points and five assists while Kidd went 4-for-17 from the field.
''When they came up in the third quarter, they picked it up a level,'' New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. ''We never matched that level. We never got up until the fourth quarter and we were 15, 16 (points) down.''
Late in the third quarter, Duncan tossed a picture-perfect lob pass behind three Nets to Stephen Jackson, who slammed it home as Duncan hopped in the air, screamed and flexed his arms. The basket capped a 15-2 run that gave San Antonio a 16-point lead its largest of the night.
Duncan even berated referees Joe Crawford and Dick Bavetta after a no-call in the third quarter another uncharacteristic moment for one of the NBA's most collected stars.
''I don't care about my image,'' Duncan said. ''Whatever you (media) think. Write something good.''
A year after they were swept by the Lakers, the Nets felt fortunate they weren't facing Shaquille O'Neal in the finals this season. But the Spurs already knocked out the Lakers this season and in the finals opener, Duncan had a game that would make Shaq envious.
''I played him as tough as possible,'' said Kenyon Martin, who fouled out with 21 points. ''I was riding him, tailing him. He just made tough shots. We executed our game plan when we had to. He just made tough shots, man.''
New Jersey scored seven points on the first break in the first quarter, but just 10 the rest of the night. Since the Nets couldn't get their usual complement of easy baskets, their shaky half-court offense was tested and New Jersey scored just 17 points in the third quarter, enduring three lengthy scoring droughts in the second half.
Parker and Duncan keyed the third-quarter rally. Moments before Duncan's 60-foot lob pass to Jackson, Parker made an elegant drive past three defenders for a difficult layup in traffic.
''In the first half I tried to run the team, get confidence in everybody, and then in the third quarter try to be aggressive and look for my shot more,'' Parker said. ''The pressure is always there, especially when you're trying to win the championship.
''Playing against the best point guard in the league makes me want to do more and play my best.''
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