Wrong. Roger Mason got the call, and the 29-year-old journeyman came through.
Mason, who scored 21 points, got away from Ricky Davis near the top of the key and had no trouble nailing his third 3-pointer of the game after the Clippers had rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
"He was the guy, we wanted the ball in his hands to make the decision," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He had the green light.
"We had a shot at the end, and they didn't."
Los Angeles did have a shot to tie it, but Baron Davis' 3-pointer as time expired didn't come close, and the Clippers were losers for the ninth time in 10 games.
"Coach just drew up a play for me," Mason said. "I felt good all game, I knew a lot of attention would be on Tim. I got an opportunity and I made the most of it. That's a shot I work on quite a bit. For me, it was just like practice."
Mason entered the NBA as a second-round draft pick with the Chicago Bulls six years ago. He joined the Spurs this summer after playing in Washington the past two seasons.
Duncan had 20 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots, and Michael Finley added 19 points for the short-handed Spurs, who have won nine straight and 17 of 18 over the Clippers.
The Spurs (5-5) played without star guards Ginobili and Parker, who averaged 38.3 points between them last season. Ginobili is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, while Parker has missed five games after spraining his left ankle against Miami on Nov. 7, two days after scoring a career-high 55 points at Minnesota. San Antonio is 4-1 without Parker.
"Obviously we're short-handed, but we've found a way to win games," Duncan said. "It's on my shoulders a little bit more. There's going to be a learning curve with everybody."
Regarding Mason, Duncan said: "He's been great for us, he's gotten great results. When [Parker and Ginobili] come back, he's going to have an even bigger role. People will be paying more attention to them."
Cuttino Mobley led the Clippers with 18 points. Chris Kaman added 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Baron Davis had 11 points and eight assists, but shot just 5-of-17, including 0-of-8 from 3-point range.
"Most definitely we thought that we had a chance to get this game going in," Davis said. "With two of their top three players out, we felt that if we just came with the intensity and the focus to play, we would be able to pull it out. But what you saw over there was their machine and their system."
Davis said the Spurs did an excellent job defensively on the game's final play.
"Basically, we were trying to get like a misdirection and get me coming off the wing for a 3," he said. "But they read it right. And when I caught the ball, I had two guys on me and almost a second and a half to get a shot up with Tim Duncan- one of the best defensive players -- standing in my face."
Finley scored five points and Duncan added four during a 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter, giving the Spurs a 77-66 lead, matching the largest of the game for either team.
It was 81-70 when a 3-pointer by Ricky Davis with 6:21 remaining ignited the Clippers' comeback, and two baskets by Kaman and a 3-pointer by Mobley tied it at 83 with 1:04 left. After a steal by Marcus Camby, Mobley had a chance to give Los Angeles the lead, but missed a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to play, setting the stage for Mason.
"We had some situations on turnovers that were careless turnovers, but the biggest factor to me was shot selection," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We probably had 10 bad shots in this game. You can't give that many possessions away and expect to win.
"Until we get the discipline we need, as far as taking good shots and not making careless turnovers, we're going to struggle."
The Spurs shot 44 percent to the Clippers' 41 percent, but Los Angeles outrebounded San Antonio 47-36. The Spurs committed 16 turnovers, the Clippers 13.
The Clippers have played an NBA-high eight home games, winning one, and a league-low two road games. They begin a three-game trip Wednesday night at Oklahoma City. ... Popovich's 634 wins put him third on the list of most coaching wins with one team. He trails Utah's Jerry Sloan (1,002) and former Boston coach Red Auerbach (795). ... The Spurs have a 37-5 record against the Clippers since the 1997-98 season. ... Popovich said he believes Ginobili and Parker will both return sometime in December. ... The Clippers went 8-of-10 from the foul line and committed nine fouls while the Spurs were 6-of-6 from the foul line and committed 15 fouls. ... Camby had seven points, nine rebounds and six of his team's 13 blocked shots.
- Eddie F. Rush
- Derrick Collins
- Gary Zielinski