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1999 NBA Playoffs

Spurs use late spurt to pull away

Duncan, Johnson lead San Antonio to Game 1 win

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Posted: Sunday May 09, 1999 09:26 PM

  The Spurs' defense was tight, forcing 19 T'wolves turnovers. AP

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tim Duncan and the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs wouldn't let the Minnesota Timberwolves hang around for a full 48 minutes.

Duncan dominated for the Spurs once again, scoring 26 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and leading San Antonio past the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-86 in Game 1 of their playoff series Sunday.

The Timberwolves kept the contest close until the fourth quarter, when San Antonio opened a comfortable double-digit lead with the Alamodome crowd shouting "M-V-P, M-V-P" for Duncan.

"Anything to get the crowd into it," Duncan said, recalling one of his second-half dunks. "Things just started rolling for me."

David Robinson had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs. Sean Elliott scored 14 points, and Avery Johnson had 21 points and 10 assists. Jaren Jackson scored 10 points off the bench.

"I'm really pleased with our defensive effort in the second half. It changed the basketball game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We were more aggressive, more physical."

Game 2 in the best-of-5 series is Tuesday night.

Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Duncan -- scoring 10 of his points in the third quarter and shooting 9-for-16 from the field for the game -- came through big for San Antonio once the Spurs managed to get the ball to him.

"Our game plan was to keep the ball out of David [Robinson's] and Tim's hands," Saunders said. "In the second half, they changed their game plan and got the ball into the big guys' hands."

It also didn't help that Minnesota had 19 turnovers, compared with 11 for San Antonio.

"We lost composure," Saunders said. "You have to play flawless basketball if you are going to win a game like this on the road."

After trailing 50-49 at halftime, the Timberwolves took the lead three times in the first three minutes of the third period, twice on shots by Kevin Garnett and once on a jumper by Sam Mitchell.

But San Antonio moved back in front each time.

A jumper by Johnson sparked a 9-2 rally that gave San Antonio a 10-point advantage with just under four minutes left in the period. Still, Minnesota edged back in and trailed only 73-66 entering the fourth.

Jaren Jackson's layup followed by a Duncan dunk moved San Antonio up 85-70 with 8:39 remaining. Six unanswered points by Minnesota made it 85-76 with 7:03 remaining. Then Robinson's two free throws and another basket by Duncan put the Spurs ahead 89-78 and the game out of reach with 5:56 left.

"In the second half we got out of sync," Garnett said. "We lost focus, made mistakes and they took advantage of it. I was a little more passive in the second half."

Garnett led Minnesota with 21 points and eight rebounds, scoring 15 of his points in the first half. Mitchell added 19 points and Terrell Brandon had 16 points and 11 assists.

The game was close throughout the first half, with the lead changing hands nine times. The score was tied 26-26 after the first quarter and San Antonio led 50-49 at halftime.

Duncan and Robinson were held to just 11 shots combined from the field before halftime.

"The first half our defense wasn't there," Duncan said. "Our defense is the key to what we do. ... Once our defense was playing well, we got different opportunities out of that."

The Spurs, 37-13 in the regular season, are the No. 1 seed in the West. The eighth-seeded Timberwolves were 25-25 in the regular season.

San Antonio, after starting 6-8 in February, went 31-5 over the next two months to overtake Utah and capture the Midwest Division title and homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.

Notes: Malik Sealy of Minnesota was ejected with 5:04 left in the game after getting two technical fouls for arguing a call. ... The Timberwolves outrebounded the Spurs 41-39. ... San Antonio and Minnesota split their regular season series 2-2, with each team winning at home. ... The Spurs finished the regular season with a 13-game home winning streak, while the Timberwolves lost 10 straight on the road.

 
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