Tim Duncan can be slowed for a while. So can David Robinson. Stopping them both? Forget it.
Not even the deep, talented and big Portland Trail Blazers could quite contain San Antonio's Twin Towers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Duncan and Robinson each scored 21 points tonight, helping the Spurs hold off the Blazers, 80-76.
"They're a very athletic team. That kind of neutralizes our size advantage a little bit," Robinson said. "But having two 7-footers, it's still a little bit of an advantage." In this case, a four-point advantage.
Rasheed Wallace, who scored a career playoff-high 28 points for Portland, missed a game-tying, wide-open 20-foot jumper with six seconds to go and the Spurs leading 78-76.
It was a pick-and-roll play, with Robinson defending Wallace. The Spurs' center switched to help out on guard Greg Anthony as he drove, then Anthony kicked it back to Wallace.
"Boy, you hate to see a guy's who's rolling like that get an open look at the basket like he did," Robinson said. "But we were lucky it went off."
The ball bounced off the rim and over the backboard.
"For that split second I was wide open," Wallace said. "Once it released from my hands, I thought it was good, but it came up short."
Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy said the shot was everything he could have wanted.
"It's a great shot for him," Dunleavy said. "I'll put my money on that any time. It's a high, high percentage shot for him. It just didn't go."
Mario Elie, who held Portland's Isaiah Rider to 13 points and made a driving layup to put the Spurs ahead 78-74 with 2 minutes 35 seconds to play, clinched San Antonio's seventh consecutive playoff victory with two free throws with 4.3 seconds to play. Duncan stole the inbounds pass to finish it.
The Blazers stopped Duncan most of the first half, but he scored 14 points in the second. He also grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots. Robinson, who came through when Duncan didn't, grabbed 10 rebounds and made two crucial plays in the last 5:35.
"They're a tough duo, no question about it," Dunleavy said. "I thought a number of shots they made were as well-defended as we could possibly defend them."
Robinson's three-point play with 5:35 remaining put San Antonio up 73-65, and his inside basket with 3:55 to play gave the Spurs a 75-69 lead.
The Blazers, playing less than 48 hours after eliminating Utah in the conference semifinals, mounted one last challenge.
Walt Williams made a three-pointer and Wallace hit consecutive jumpers over Duncan to cut the lead to 78-76 with 1:39 to play.
The next time down court, Duncan stepped on the end line. But the Blazers turned it over, too, when Brian Grant lost the ball out of bounds as the shot clock was about to expire.
San Antonio took the ball down court, but Anthony, who scored eight of his 10 points in the final quarter, stole Avery Johnson's pass to give the Blazers the ball again with 39 seconds to go. After a Spurs foul, the Blazers worked for the tying shot, and Wallace, who finished 12 for 20, got the open look but the shot was just a little short.