Tim Duncan made a three-point play with 2.2 seconds left and Chris Paul's shot at the buzzer misfired, as the San Antonio Spurs held on to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers, 104-102, on Friday.
Duncan made the game-winning shot from 16 feet out while taking a foul from Willie Green. His free throw created the two-point edge late.
Duncan had a season-high 34 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who have won six of their last seven games. Tony Parker scored 24 points and dished out eight assists.
"Well, you just look at his (Duncan) line and just be amazed that he's doing what he's doing," says Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "But he's done the work to put himself in the position to have games like this and to have the season that he's had. You couldn't be more proud of the guy tonight on what he did out there. Obviously Tony Parker too, with his competitiveness in a very physical playoff-type game. It was a great win against a hell of a team."
The victory gives the Spurs a 2 1/2-game advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford scored 18 and 16 points, respectively, and Paul had 14 points and 12 assists for the Clippers, who were coming off a 105-91 win over New Orleans on Wednesday.
"Anything is possible," said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. "The Spurs are obviously having a tremendous season. They've been together a long time. I thought we battled. We could have slowed them down a little bit. We did a better job in the second half controlling them as much as possible. We were not able to convert down the stretch. They made a couple shots that we didn't. That's the difference in these games."
The Clippers were looking for their 50th win, a franchise first. In addition, had they won, the magic number for their first-ever division title would have trimmed to just one.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Spurs had an 85-79 lead. They extended their lead to 91-82 early in the period.
However, the Clippers slowly clawed their way back. With 1:03 remaining in regulation, Crawford drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 99-99.
Paul then made a tip shot to give Los Angeles a 101-99 lead with 35.9 seconds to go.
Four seconds later, Duncan made a layup to tie the game once more, before Paul drew a foul off Parker and sank a free throw to retake the lead.
Blake Griffin then missed a short jumper for the Clippers, who were called for a shot clock violation with seven seconds remaining.
In the end, though, Duncan proved his clutch player status by making the 3-point play.
Most of the first half was competitive. The Clippers did have a nine-point lead midway through the second quarter, but that quickly dissipated as the first half came to a close.
Duncan and Parker combined to score the Spurs' final 17 points of the half, but were down 62-61 at halftime.
Duncan made all 10 of his free throw attempts ... The Spurs were 20-of-21 from the free throw line ... San Antonio is 32-4 at home. Only Denver has a better home record in the Western Conference at 33-3 ... The Spurs, winners of seven in a row at home, tied the season-series with the Clippers 2-2 ... Spurs guard Manu Ginobili left the game in the first quarter with tightness in his right hamstring.