for this game

Duncan, Spurs grab championship rings, down Blazers

Oct 31, 2007 - 4:05 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs weren't distracted by a championship celebration on Tuesday night.

Duncan collected 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Spurs started off their title defense with an 106-97 victory over the undermanned Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA's season opener.

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker scored 19 points for San Antonio, which played its first game since sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals last June. The Spurs have won four championships in nine seasons.

Duncan, who signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him in San Antonio through 2012, shot 10-of-15 from the field and controlled the paint for most of the game.

All Duncan would say about his new contract is that he is happy to retire as a Spur.

"To have signed this extension and, hopefully, end my career here that's the biggest part of it," he said.

But the main attraction came before the contest.

After the starting lineups were announced, the Trail Blazers returned to their locker room, opting to miss the championship ring ceremony. But the Spurs were the ones who have seen this all before.

San Antonio's 2007 championship banner was unveiled alongside the previous three after players and team employees were handed the title rings from NBA commissioner David Stern - a familiar sight at AT&T Center in recent campaigns.

"The ring ceremony is always a little bit emotional, but it probably keeps you from being at your best as far as focus is concerned," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "But I thought as the game got tight, they did a pretty good job of getting back in the flow of things."

Manu Ginobili was a much-needed fourth-quarter spark for the Spurs, collecting 16 points, eight assists and five steals in the game.

Portland coach Nate McMillan said his team didn't show up just to make the game interesting.

"We didn't come to San Antonio to play close," said McMillan, who is in his third year as Blazers coach. "We came to win this game. I knew that turnovers would be a big key tonight, and we gave up seventeen.

"When you spot the world champions seventeen opportunities to capitalize before you even get started, it will hurt you."

The Spurs never seemed to find their outside shot, connecting on 5-of-17 from the arc. Bruce Bowen, usually solid from his corner spot, missed two badly early in the game, and finished 0-of-5 from the field.

But Ginobili hit two free throws, and newcomer Darius Washington hit a 3-pointer on the Spur's first possession in the fourth quarter for an 84-77 lead.

Ginobili then threw down an emphatic dunk and scored off an offensive rebound on the next possession for an 88-80 lead with 9:35 left in the game.

"(Ginobili's) our playmaker," Duncan said. "He makes things happen, especially when the game gets stagnant. He has done that for a long time now, and we expect that from him."

Duncan took control of the game in the paint, scoring four straight points and giving the Spurs a cushion, albeit a small one, to work with en route to outscoring the Blazers by five points in the final period to secure the victory.

"It's a great way to start off the year," Popovich said. "Wins in the NBA are all fun. It doesn't matter how you get them. I didn't think our defense was all that great, but it's the first game of the year - and it's ring night - so you give everyone a break."

Second-year forward LaMarcus Aldridge kept the Blazers in the game with 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting. Joel Przybilla added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, which will play without No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden for the entire season.

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