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NBA: Duncan’s block denies Bobcats

By Mike Cranston
Associated PressCHARLOTTE ó Tim Duncan experienced the full spectrum of emotions in 10 seconds.
First, he had a potential game-clinching shot blocked. Then he hustled back and blocked Raymond Felton’s tying shot attempt ó only he swatted it so hard it landed in the hands of a wide-open Boris Diaw.
Then he watched helplessly as Diaw’s game-winning 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer, giving Duncan a sigh of relief and his San Antonio Spurs a wild 86-84 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday.
All in 10 frantic, uninterrupted seconds.
“It’s always nice to get a game on the road,” Duncan said after the Spurs snapped the upstart Bobcats’ three-game winning streak. “I think we lost our form a bit in the fourth quarter.”
Duncan had 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Tony Parker added 13 points and 10 assists for the Spurs, who held the Bobcats to 36-percent shooting.
Raja Bell scored 25 points in his best offensive performance since being acquired by the Bobcats last month. Diaw added 16 points and 13 rebounds in a physical, bruising game full of fouls and a brief jaw-to-jaw argument between Duncan and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace after Duncan’s layup-preventing shoulder block.
It was fitting for a matchup of two defensive-minded coaching graybeards and longtime friends with 1,684 combined NBA wins in 36 seasons as head coaches in the league coming in. Gregg Popovich’s first NBA job was as an assistant under Larry Brown with the Spurs in 1988-89.
The well-traveled Brown, whose Bobcats played the 12th of 25 games this season against teams he once coached, took Popovich out to dinner Sunday. They traded friendly jabs with each other in their pregame availability with reporters.
Brown then played a big role when he decided not to call a timeout after Emeka Okafor blocked Duncan’s shot with 10 seconds left.
“I didn’t want to call a timeout because maybe they substitute (defensive ace Bruce) Bowen and talk about switching everything,” Brown said.
So they played on. Felton raced into the frontcourt and whipped a pass to Bell, who had nowhere to go. Bell threw it back to Felton, who quickly drove into the lane past Manu Ginobili.
“Once I made a move on Ginobili, I felt like I had an open floater,” Felton said.
Instead, Duncan came in to help and blocked the shot ó but so hard that it landed in Diaw’s hands on the right wing. He quickly fired up a 3-point attempt.
“The ball was going straight. I couldn’t really tell it was short,” Diaw said. “At first, I thought it was going in.”
The miss gave the Bobcats their fifth straight home loss to the Spurs in their annual home matinee on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Charlotte’s Bob Johnson, the first black majority owner of a major professional sports team, didn’t attend due to travel issues, a team spokesman said. Johnson, whose struggling franchise has lost millions of dollars, has been at only a handful of games this season.
Johnson’s club is much improved since the deal that brought Diaw and Bell from Phoenix for Jason Richardson. But Charlotte couldn’t extend its longest winning streak since March despite holding a nine-point third-quarter lead.
“For a team that’s going through some transition right now, it’s a good sign,” Bell said. “If we can compete like that every night, maybe knock down a few more shots, hit some free throws, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win a lot of games.”
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Notes: Duncan signed autographs and posed for pictures with more than three dozen fans in Wake Forest gear before the game. It came shortly before Duncan’s alma mater became the top-ranked team in the country. … Center DeSagana Diop, acquired from Dallas on Friday, was deactivated in his Charlotte debut. Diop was dripping in sweat after a pregame workout with assistant coach LaSalle Thompson. … Brown said point guard D.J. Augustin (abdominal strain) likely won’t return until next week. … Brown said he recently discussed the team’s open roster spot with managing partner Michael Jordan. “To me, we want to find out what’s happening with D.J. and not rush into it,” Brown said.

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