SAN ANTONIO (AP) — With three NBA championship flags high above the court, and many of the key players from those title teams in the lineup, the San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference finals like a team ready to add to their collection.
Well, for most of Game 1.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were terrific for three quarters, then good enough at the end to carry San Antonio to a 108-100 victory over the upstart Utah Jazz on Sunday.
Playing only 39 hours after ending a rough and tumble series with Phoenix and facing a team they could’ve taken lightly, the Spurs zoomed to a 19-point lead before halftime and were still ahead by 18 early in the fourth quarter. Then a combination of fatigue and Utah’s Deron Williams turned things interesting in the final minutes.
Although the Jazz never got closer than seven points, and lost for the 17th straight time in San Antonio, Utah’s late rally certainly got the Spurs’ attention, as did Williams’ career-high 34 points.
“In Game 2, they’re going to be ready,” Parker said. “The way they played in the second half, that’s what we will see the whole series. We need to make sure we match that.”
Duncan had 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Ginobili had 23 points and 10 assists. Parker added 21 points and six assists, including one through the legs of Utah’s Mehmet Okur that started a fast break.
“They’ve been named the ‘Big Three’ for a reason,” said teammate Michael Finley, who scored 14 points. “When they come out and offensively put up numbers like that, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”
Robert Horry received a long, loud standing ovation when he entered for the first time after being suspended the two previous games because of his hard foul on Phoenix’s Steve Nash. He drew another big cheer the first time he went in after halftime, but didn’t score — or take a shot — in 15 minutes.
“I’m happy the fans accepted me back,” Horry said. “It was very funny.”