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Spurs come from way back; Clippers can't hang on to a 24-point advantage

LOS ANGELES -- Nothing was going to rattle the calm, cool and collected Spurs. Not even a 24-point deficit.

Tim Duncan scored 19 points, helping engineer a defining 24-0 run in the third quarter, and San Antonio defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 96-86, on Saturday to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.

"We didn't plan on being down that much," said Duncan, who at 36 is hungry to win the team's fifth NBA championship and first since 2006-07. "We stuck with it."

Led by Tony Parker's 23 points and his defense on an ailing Chris Paul, the Spurs kept running their plays even as Blake Griffin's early offensive assault buried them in a huge hole. Griffin missed three shots in the first half, when he scored 20 points and carried his team to a 24-point lead despite a left hip injury and a sprained right knee.

"They came out like we expected, very strong. Blake was making crazy shots," Parker said. "We just took our time. It's a long game, a very long game. At halftime, we were very calm."

Griffin had 28 points and 16 rebounds, and reserve Mo Williams added 19 points for the Clippers, who face some daunting NBA history heading into Game Four on Sunday at Staples Center. No team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

"If we don't play with that sense of urgency, it's not going to be pretty," Griffin said.

The Clippers played a must-win Game Seven in the opening round on the road at Memphis and succeeded.

"We have to keep fighting," Paul said.

Rookie Kawhi Leonard added 14 points and Manu Ginobili 13 to help the top-seeded Spurs win their 17th in a row and improve to 7-0 in the playoffs.

"We all struggled in the first quarter. We didn't feel right out there," said Duncan, who like his teammates, looked to Parker to pick the team up.

"We follow his lead. He stuck with it, made some big shots down the stretch and continued to attack," Duncan said. "He was playing defense really hard and got up into Chris."

Beside Parker, the Spurs threw two other defenders at Paul. He finished with 12 points and 11 assists after two previous sub-par efforts in the series.

"Tony really ran the show well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I'd say, 'Let's do this' and he said, 'No, let's do this,' and we'd do it."

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Heat get back at it

INDIANAPOLIS -- Refreshed in body and spirit, the Miami Heat returned to practice reunited and refocused.

There was no looking back. No heartfelt apologies given. No need for a detailed autopsy of Dwyane Wade's ugly sideline exchange with coach Eric Spoelstra in Game Three.

What's done is done. All that's for another day. It's time to save the season.

"We move on," Wade said.

Down by 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the ready-to-rumble Indiana Pacers, the Heat were back on the floor Saturday after staying away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a day to decompress following their stunning 94-75 loss, a defeat amplified by the clash between Wade and Spoelstra during a timeout in the third quarter.

On Friday, Wade drove to Bloomington, Ind., and visited Indiana coach Tom Crean, his college coach for three years at Marquette. LeBron James went to the movies, catching "The Dictator."

"We wanted to get away," Spoelstra said as his team prepared for today's Game Four (3:30 p.m., Ch. 7).

***

Lakers trying to draw even

The Los Angles Lakers avoided falling behind, 3-0, in their series with Oklahoma City late Friday night by going 41 of 42 from the free-throw line and holding the Thunder to a postseason-low 39.8 percent from the field in a 99-96 home victory. Kobe Bryant made all 18 of his free throws and scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers earn some confidence heading into their first back-to-back playoff games since May 1999. Game Four on Saturday night did not end in time for this edition.

The Lakers entered having won 14 consecutive playoff home games over the Thunder franchise.

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