99 - 93 Final - OT
  for this game

Finley sinks Knicks, completes Spurs' comeback

Feb 9, 2008 - 5:22 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs don't usually need a clutch shot late in regulation against an inferior opponent. Facing that scenario, they showed their experience.

Michael Finley nailed five three-pointers, including a game-tying shot from the arc with four-tenths of a second in regulation as the Spurs rallied from an 18-point deficit and cruised in overtime en route to a 99-93 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night.

Tim Duncan collected 21 points and 14 rebounds and Finley scored 17 for the Spurs, who used a 27-14 third quarter to begin their comeback and finished with their fourth straight win on a season-high nine-game road trip.

"The ball just went in," said San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili, who finished with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. "We loved it, of course, but we put ourselves in that situation to depend on that shot to go to overtime against a team that is not doing that good.

"So, we shouldn't be being saying, we played great or good, we won four in a row because all four we didn't play good. So, we really got to step up, play better and keep improving because our goal is bigger than the Knicks. We want to go further ahead and keep improving."

Finley's shot was a lift for the San Antonio, and it had the opposite effect for New York. The Spurs scored the first seven points of the extra period as Finley's final 3-pointer put them ahead by seven with 2:56 remaining.

"I think experience helped us in that particular play," Finley said. "That particular play, everybody was accustomed to the play except for Damon (Stoudamire), but we had to tell him what to do. But it was a play that we've run before and we've been successful before."

"We are thrilled to get out of here with the win because we obviously played very poorly in the first half and started to make stops in the second half," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "When we make stops, we are a pretty good team."

By that time, the differences in execution and experience were evident as the Knicks were 2-of-12 and had one basket in the final five-plus minutes of the fourth after Jamal Crawford's 3-pointer put them in front by nine.

Despite struggling to get a timely hoop, New York appeared like it was going to escape with its first win in two weeks after Zach Randolph and Renaldo Balkman each hit a pair from the line in the final 13.6 seconds.

Balkman, who is a 51 percent shooter, made it 88-85 with 8.5 seconds left and the Spurs had a chance to tie, but Finley was fouled by David Lee before getting off a 3-pointer.

After a timeout, Ginobili drove along the baseline after getting a screen from Duncan and nearly fell out of bounds but drew Balkman to him, leaving Finley wide-open in front of New York's bench.

It was during the timeout that Finley sensed the Knicks might not defend the play properly.

"Not really," Finley said when asked if he was surprised to be that open. "I kind of sensed that he played the play wrong when I was taking the ball out and I was able to get a good look at it.

"We've run the play before, and it's like an option quarterback and, when the defense does one thing, we re-react the other way. It happened that way that I was able to get open in the corner."

The reaction to the play was also exactly how the Spurs hoped the Knicks would respond.

"The idea for me was to penetrate hard to the basket, draw some attention and a back screen on the weak side from Tim to Michael," Ginobili said. "It really worked well. Michael, he's a great shooter.

"He was the one making the shots, so it was a great play for us. It really helped us, especially facing what was coming. It gave us a big, big lift."

While coach Isiah Thomas said that Balkman was supposed to stay with Finley, he also did not entirely blame the second-year forward.

"He was (supposed to stay on Finley)," Thomas said. "He is young and you have to sometimes learn difficult lessons in this league. He is a young player and he is a great defender.

"It is funny, the other night I talked about know how, I thought tonight, their experience, they knew how to win the basketball game."

Before equaling their longest losing streak of the season and suffering their 36th loss in 50 games, the Knicks had a 52-34 lead on rookie Wilson Chandler's 20-footer with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter.

San Antonio then ripped off 14 straight points and held New York scoreless for nearly five minutes.

Fred Jones ended the Knicks' drought with a 3-pointer, but the Spurs were within 62-59 after 36 minutes when Robert Horry hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Horry hit two more shots from the arc to start the fourth as San Antonio took a 65-62 lead just 90 seconds into the period.

The Knicks stormed back with an 18-6 run as Crawford hit consecutive 3-pointers and added another one a few minutes later for an 80-71 lead. The Spurs came right back and were within 82-79 when Finley and Ginobili hit consecutive 3-pointers.

Crawford had 24 points and eight assists and Jones added 19 points for New York, which has held a lead in all but one of its last eight games.

"I wish I knew," Crawford said. "We had the world champs down 16. You have to finish."