Duncan, Spurs rise to occasion
LeBron James couldnt bear to watch as Detroit finished its rout of Cleveland in the opener of the second-round series. (AP Photo)
Avery Johnson should have known better than to underestimate Tim Duncan. Especially in the playoffs.
In the opener of a second-round series against the Spurs yesterday in San Antonio, Johnson took the calculated risk of letting his former teammate go against his centers with only limited help.
Duncan, a three-time Finals MVP who teamed with Johnson for the Spurs' 1999 championship, made the strategy backfire by scoring 20 of his 31 points in the first half, giving his worn-out teammates the lift they needed to pull out an 87-85 victory.
''Timmy was awesome," teammate Tony Parker said. ''When he plays like that, it makes it easy for everybody."
DeSagana Diop was the first to go at Duncan alone. He got two fouls, then was replaced by Erick Dampier. He got two fouls, then was replaced by D.J. Mbenga. Yes, he also got two fouls -- all before the first quarter ended.
Despite the barrage, Duncan was only 3 of 5 for 10 points. Then he scored 10 of San Antonio's first 12 in the second quarter, giving him 20 of the Spurs' first 38 points.
''He was pretty aggressive," Johnson said.
The Spurs were playing just 36 hours after closing out their first-round series in Sacramento, while the Mavericks had been off since Monday.
Bruce Bowen hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:15 left that ended up being the winner. His biggest contribution, though, was pestering Dirk Nowitzki into a forgettable game. Nowitzki was 8 of 20 for 20 points after averaging 31.3 in the first round.
Pistons 113, Cavaliers 86 -- When LeBron James had the ball, he saw Detroit defenders to his left, to his right, and straight ahead. The Pistons also had James seeing triple at the other end of the court.
Host Detroit made 10 3-pointers in the first half -- one shy of an NBA playoff record -- to open up a 21-point lead at halftime before cruising past Cleveland in Game 1 of their second-round series.
The Pistons finished with a franchise playoff-record 15 3-pointers, on 22 attempts, and missed only one of their 11 3-point attempts before halftime.
''They're going to sweep the rest of the playoffs if they shoot like that," James said.
James scored all of his 22 points in the first half, but had to work for each one.
Tayshaun Prince made James work on defense, too, scoring 24 points and tying his playoff record.