AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Tim Duncan had the game in his hands, and he couldn’t hang on. Luckily for the San Antonio superstar, Robert Horry was around to pick it up.
Duncan missed an easy tip-in right before the regulation buzzer in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, his timing thrown off when the rebound of Manu Ginobili’s missed shot clipped the rim.
While The Palace shook with cheers and the game went to overtime, Duncan walked slowly to midcourt, his fists to his mouth in a wide-eyed expression of horror. After the game, he had regained his composure – but the miss still stung.
“We wanted that last shot, and we talked about getting the ball up in time to have an opportunity for an offensive rebound,” Duncan said. “We did that. I had the chance. It didn’t go down.”
Though the two-time finals MVP had played well, with 26 points and 17 rebounds at that point, he also missed six of his seven free throws in the fourth quarter – and his fumble at the rim could have haunted him for years.
“It was an absolute nightmare,” Duncan said. “It was real disappointing what I did out there. A lot of the shots I was taking weren’t going down.”
Duncan didn’t score in overtime, missing both of his shots and making a turnover on an easy pass into the post with 56 seconds left. From the dour expression on his face when the Spurs went to their next-to-last timeout in overtime, Duncan must have figured he was about to be the goat.
But Horry rescued his eight-time All-NBA teammate, scoring the final five points of the Spurs’ 96-95 victory. Horry hit his fifth 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left, and when Richard Hamilton missed the Pistons’ final shot, Duncan wore much more relief than joy.
“He pulled me out of an incredible hole that I put myself in,” Duncan said. “Everybody just kept on playing. We just kept on pushing through.”
Duncan finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds, playing with the determination most expected to see after his tough outings in Games 3 and 4.
With two days between games to stew on his struggles, the Spurs saw an intensely focused Duncan before Game 5. Popovich said Duncan hadn’t paid attention to the media analysis of his struggles – preferring instead to “beat himself up.”
About 65 minutes before tipoff, Duncan didn’t show any signs of pressure while reclining on a training table, his feet in the air, pecking intently at his portable video game system.
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