- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

From combined dispatches

Spurs 117, Suns 115 (2OT)

SAN ANTONIO — Midway through the first quarter after missing two jumpers, Tim Duncan threw the ball up yet again, then held his arms wide.

This time, would the shot fall?

It did. And much later San Antonio’s big man hit an even bigger one. Duncan’s first 3 of the season with just ticks left sent his team into double overtime against revenge-minded Phoenix.

Then it was Manu Ginobili’s turn, and his layup with 1.8 seconds left pushed the defending champions past the Suns yesterday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Now the teams have two days to rest from their marathon best-of-seven Western Conference opener before meeting for Game 2 on Tuesday night.

“I got a wide-open shot. Wound it up. Threw it up there and hoped for the best,” said a clearly tired Duncan, who had 40 points and 15 rebounds.

This year’s rematch of what many dubbed last year’s real finals — a tense and testy second-round series between the teams that the Spurs won in six games on their way to the title — got off to a wild start and more than met expectations.

“It feels like a finals game,” Duncan said. “It’s the first game of the first series, and we’re going to have to muster energy back up.”

Early on, Game 1 did not look like it would turn into a thriller. The Suns controlled play for the first three quarters, leading by as many as 16 points despite early foul trouble for Shaquille O’Neal. The Suns held a six-point lead with a quarter left in regulation.

The Spurs took their first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter, but were down 93-90 with 1:10 to go after Leandro Barbosa’s fast-break layup.

With 15 seconds on the clock, Michael Finley tied it at 93 for the Spurs to send it to overtime.

“We had the game won a few times and just weren’t tough enough or disciplined enough to make every single play when it counted,” said Steve Nash, who had 25 points and 13 assists.

Duncan made the big shot in the first overtime. With his team down 104-101, Duncan found himself all alone at the 3-point line.

After only a slight hesitation, he fired the ball and made it with 3 seconds to play. It was Duncan’s first 3 of the season. He was 0-for-4 previously.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, honestly,” Duncan said. “Manu turned the corner, Shaq just totally leaves me and stayed with Manu.”

In the second overtime, Shaq’s dunk tied it at 112 with 1:33 to play. Ginobili’s layup put the Spurs ahead.

Nash missed a key 3 with less than a minute to play. After risky, cross-court inbounds pass to the Spurs’ Brent Barry, he was fouled. Barry made one of two free throws.

With 15 seconds left, the Suns went to sharp shooter Nash. Nearly falling out of bounds in the corner, he hit a 3 that made it 115-115.

Then Ginobili drove the lane against Raja Bell and got to the hoop, as he often does, almost at will, and his layup fell.

“What I knew, before taking it to the rim, is that Shaq and Amare [Stoudemire] were not there,” Ginobili said. “So, I knew if I had the opportunity to go get in there, get some legs into the shot, I had an opportunity to finish.”

Hornets 104, Mavericks 92

NEW ORLEANS — The jitters that come with an NBA playoff debut prevented Chris Paul from taking his typical afternoon nap before playing Dallas.

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Paul was the same player he’s been all season when the Hornets needed him most, and the same “M-V-P!” chants that rained down from the New Orleans Arena stands during numerous recent triumphs made a thunderous postseason return.

Paul had 35 points, 10 assists and four steals in his first playoff game, lifting New Orleans to a come-from-behind victory over Dallas in Game 1 of their first-round series.

“Today, after shootaround, I couldn’t go to sleep,” Paul said, explaining that he instead tuned in to Game 1 of the Cleveland-Washington series, then some of the San Antonio-Phoenix opener. “I saw the intensity of it … and I was like, ‘Man, this is serious.’ ”

Then he went out and performed like a playoff veteran, taking the game over with 15 third-quarter points as the Hornets erased a 12-point halftime lead.

“Before we started the second half, I told him ‘. . . when series like this are up in the air, you’ve got to go out there and impose your will,’ ” Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

Jazz 93, Rockets 82

HOUSTON — Andrei Kirilenko scored 21 points, Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 16 rebounds and Utah beat Houston in the opener of their first-round series.

Deron Williams had 20 points and 10 assists as Utah, 17-24 on the road during the regular season, won its second straight playoff game in Houston. The last victory came in Game 7 last season, and that was when Houston got help from Yao Ming.

Yao is not around for this one. He’s out for the series with a foot injury and the Rockets have to wonder after Game 1 how they’re going to compete with the Jazz inside. Utah had a 34-29 rebounding edge through three quarters and Boozer hit 10 of 20 shots.

Utah’s reserves also played well, outscoring Houston’s reserves 28-17.

Shane Battier scored 22 and Tracy McGrady had 20 points for Houston, which shot 37 percent (29-for-79).

The Rockets are also playing without starting point guard Rafer Alston, who strained his right hamstring late in the season. His backup, Bobby Jackson, scored seven points on 3-for-15 shooting.

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