- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

SAN ANTONIO — The rebound came off the rim, Tim Duncan grabbed it and fired a 60-foot pass ahead of the field to Stephen Jackson for an uncontested dunk.

It was a pass that would have made Jason Kidd proud. But this one was thrown by Duncan, and it put a flourish of a finish on a decisive third-quarter run that led San Antonio to a 101-89 victory over the New Jersey Nets last night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

San Antonio outscored the Nets 32-17 in the third period to break open a close game, with Duncan’s long pass capping a 15-2 run.

“One bad quarter in the playoffs can kill you, and the third quarter for us was a killer,” Nets coach Byron Scott said.

Unlike five previous times in this postseason, the Spurs managed to hang onto that double-digit lead, although the Nets did manage to get within nine points.

Duncan had a stat line worthy of his MVP status with 32 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and three steals as San Antonio snapped the Nets’ 10-game postseason winning streak and handed them their first loss in 39 days.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is tomorrow night.

“It is a big confidence booster, knowing the kind of streak they were on and the kind of confidence they came in with,” Duncan said. “It was big to get this win, but it puts that much more pressure on Friday. We really want to get that one and leave here 2-0 knowing that we have to go there and play three games.”

Duncan’s third-quarter line of 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and two steals was spectacular all by itself. He missed his first shot of the fourth and then made his next four.

San Antonio also got an unexpectedly strong contribution from David Robinson (14 points, six rebounds and four blocks), along with an effort from Tony Parker that was better than Kidd’s.

Kidd made his first two shots and missed his next 10 before breaking the slump midway through the third quarter on a driving layup. His next shot, however, was an airball. From there, Kidd was not a factor. Kenyon Martin also was a non-entity, sitting for a 7-minute stretch because of four fouls.

“There’s no excuse for me personally,” Kidd said. “I just didn’t shoot the ball well, but that’s not always what I’m known for.”

By the time Martin returned, the Spurs led 82-66 with 6:56 left, and it was too late. New Jersey got within nine with 2:23 left, but Duncan fed Robinson for a dunk and then blocked his sixth shot, ending the threat.

Martin led New Jersey with 21 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 1:11 left. Kidd had 10 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds but shot just 4-for-17.

“Just missed shots,” Nets coach Byron Scott said. “I think that had a lot to do with the [10-day] layoff. You’re going to be a little rusty. Your timing is going to be a little off. Ten days is too long.”

Parker had 16 points and five assists, while Malik Rose and Jackson added 12 points each.

Most importantly, the Spurs kept the Nets out of their running game a vast majority of the time. Kidd had three turnovers in the first quarter trying to force the issue, and he wasn’t the same after that.

“We had opportunities to run, we just turned the ball over on the break a lot, and that’s uncharacteristic of our team,” Martin said.

The game was tied 42-42 at halftime, and the Spurs had the first big run of the game early in the second half, with Parker leading the way.

Parker hit a 21-foot jumper and a 3-pointer before feeding a pass to Duncan for a low-arcing jumper than gave San Antonio the game’s first double-digit lead — 58-48 with 7:27 left in the third quarter.

“In the first half I tried to run the team, get confidence in everybody, and then in the third quarter try to be aggressive and look for my shot more,” Parker said. “The pressure is always there, especially when you’re trying to win the championship. Playing against the best point guard in the league makes me want to do more and play my best.”

Following a timeout, San Antonio dropped into a zone defense that befuddled the Nets.

Duncan had a steal and then made two free throws and an 8-foot turnaround before he rebounded Rodney Rogers’ missed jumper and fired a two-handed pass ahead of everyone to Jackson for a dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“That was a great pass,” Jackson said. “That’s something J. Kidd would do.”

The Spurs’ 12 blocks was one short of the NBA Finals record, reached six times, most recently by the Los Angeles Lakers against Philadelphia in Game 2 of the 2001 series. Shaquille O’Neal had eight blocks in that game, setting the record that Duncan came within one of reaching.

Duncan finished the quarter with just two points to go along with three blocks and seven rebounds. After backup center Aaron Williams picked up his second foul early in the second quarter, little-used but highly paid veteran Dikembe Mutombo checked in for his first game action since May 9.

Several of the Nets bounded off the bench and patted Mutombo on the back after he blocked Duncan’s shot and dived on the floor to retrieve the ball and call a timeout. But Mutombo never played in the second half as Duncan had his scoring binge.

“San Antonio came out after halftime and played their kind of basketball, and whoever is the aggressor in this series is going to win,” Kidd said.

Notes — Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and George “Ice Man” Gervin took part in a ceremonial opening tip using a red, white and blue ball. This is the first time two former ABA teams have competed against each other in the finals. … The Nets and Spurs went 30-30 against each other over the years in the ABA playoffs. … A fan brought a sign that read: “Hey, Shaq and Kobe, Need Tickets?” … Danny Ferry played the final 0.4 seconds of the first half and no more.

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