for this game

Duncan helps Spurs edge Mavs for seventh win in a row

Feb 29, 2008 - 5:23 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) - Tim Duncan knocked down two free throws with 34 seconds left and Bruce Bowen added the game-saving block in the San Antonio Spurs' 97-94 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

Duncan collected 31 points and 15 rebounds and Manu Ginobili scored 17 for the defending NBA champions, who extended their winning streak to seven games.

"(Thursday's) game was a heavyweight fight, and we just didn't have that last punch at the end to bring it home," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Hopefully, the next time we play them, we can finish with one more point than them."

Ginobili stressed the importance of the win.

"We know that if you lose two, three in a row, you can drop from second to seventh with things being so tight (in the West)," Ginobili said. "So, it's very important to play every game with a lot of energy."

After Duncan's late free throws, Dallas had three opportunities to tie or win the game, but could not capitalize as Bowen's block on Jason Terry in the lane sealed the win.

"It came down to the wire. It felt like we had some good looks down the stretch, but just couldn't come up with the big play to send it to overtime," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 28 points. "I thought we had our chances, but we just fell short a little bit. It was definitely a game that was up for grabs and could have gone either way."

With the game tied at 53-53 in the third quarter, Nowitzki yelled and pumped his fist after hitting a 3-pointer that seemed to energize his entire team. It was part of a 10-0 run for the Mavericks, but Jason Terry helped get the Spurs going.

Terry received a technical foul for arguing with Bowen at the 3:44 mark in the third. Michael Finley, who scored nine points in the quarter, hit the free throw and then a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 67-61. Duncan followed with an easy basket, trimming the deficit to four points.

During the ensuing timeout, Mavs coach Avery Johnson received a technical that led to another free throw by Finley to slice it to 67-64.

Finley hit two straight jumpers during an impressive 13-1 run that was capped by a basket from Bowen, giving the Spurs a 70-68 lead on the next possession.

Nowitzki hit four foul shots to end the quarter that gave the Mavericks a two-point lead, but Ime Udoka hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner to restore San Antonio's lead to 73-72 heading into the fourth.

Dallas used an 8-0 run to take a 42-37 lead with 2:39 left in the second quarter, but the Spurs closed the quarter strong.

Ginobili took the inbound pass with four seconds left in first half and dribbled to his left before stepping back and releasing a high-arcing fadeaway over Devean George that tied the game, 47-47, at halftime.

"Closing out quarters is really huge," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's a big emphasis of ours. It doesn't happen all the time, but a lot of good things can happen in the last three minutes of every quarter."

Duncan and Ginobili combined to score 35 of the Spurs' 47 first-half points.

"I just got my shot to go down and it goes from there," Duncan said. "It's a great situation to be in when the jumper is going down because I can start doing different things."

As part of his prolific and aggressive night, Brandon Bass threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk that gave Dallas a five-point lead with 7:41 left in the game. Bass finished with 16 points - 12 in the first half - on 7-of-10 shooting.

"That was one of the most intense games I've ever been in," Bass said.