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San Antonio survives swamp

Posted: Monday, June 09, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Out of the Jersey swamps emerged a horrific sight, a game so ugly it was almost frightening. They called it Game 3.

On a night that featured the lowest-scoring first half in the history of the NBA Finals, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs didn't really care how it looked.

They took control of the game with a 14-3 run to open the fourth quarter, putting them back in charge with an 84-79 victory Sunday for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

How unsightly was it?

Well, the winning team committed 17 turnovers, missed 12 foul shots, tossed up numerous airballs and even had players bickering at each other after a series of botched plays in the first quarter.

Duncan, the league MVP, had a night that was nothing too special by his standards, scoring 21 points with 16 rebounds the 15th of which was most crucial.

Tony Parker added 26 points two off his career playoff high to make up for the lack of any other double-digit scorers.

San Antonio improved to 7-3 on the road in this year's playoffs with its fifth consecutive victory away from home. This time, it came at one of the NBA's oldest buildings an arena built in the 1970s in the swampland west of the Hudson River.

Game 4 is Wednesday night.

The final score didn't accurately indicate what an offensive horror show this was for three quarters. The teams combined to score 55 points in the fourth quarter after totaling only 111 through the first three periods.

The teams played the lowest-scoring first half in NBA playoff history, with the Nets having the lowest-scoring second quarter nine points ever in a postseason game.

Kenyon Martin scored 23 and Kerry Kittles 21 for the Nets. Jason Kidd struggled with his shot all night just as a lot of players did and finished 6-for-19 for 12 points with 11 assists. He also had four of the Nets' 20 turnovers, and Martin had five.

When Martin made a foul shot with 1:46 left in the third, the teams had finally combined for 100 points. New Jersey led 57-54 entering the fourth.

Spurs forward Malik Rose had three momentum-altering baskets in the first five minutes of the fourth. The first was a ferocious dunk for the first points of the quarter, the second was another dunk that started the Spurs' 8-0 run, the third was a 2-footer from the lane after Rose faked out three defenders.

The last one gave the Spurs a 68-60 lead their largest of the game and forced the Nets to call timeout.

Parker scored San Antonio's next five points by following up his own miss and converting a layup, then hitting his fourth 3-pointer in as many attempts. The 3 gave San Antonio a 73-62 edge with 5:21 left.

A 9-2 run got the Nets back in it, pulling them to 77-71. Two free throws by Harris, an airball by Parker and a dunk by Williams made it a two-point game. Manu Ginobili stripped the ball from Harris, but Parker missed two free throws.

Duncan grabbed the offensive rebound, and Parker drove baseline and found Ginobili open in the corner. He took one dribble in and made a 12-footer the biggest shot of the game for an 80-75 lead with 43 seconds left.

Kittles missed a runner and Williams missed a putback, leading to Duncan's 16th rebound with 31 seconds left. The Spurs wrapped it up from there at the free-throw line, with Duncan calmly hitting two for an 82-75 lead.

The Nets actually had their fastbreak working for a while the first six minutes of the first quarter. Kittles had a dunk on the break for the game's first basket, and the game's first 3 also came from Kittles and also on the fastbreak.

But that shot only made the score 9-6 at the midpoint of the first quarter a hint of the slow pace to come.

A 12-2 run early in the second quarter gave the Spurs a 30-25 lead, and New Jersey scored only five points over the final 7:02 of the quarter to go into intermission trailing 33-30.

The teams broke the first-half record of 66 points set by Utah and Chicago in 1998.



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