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Spurs tower over Jazz in a foulfest

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It may be only five games into the season, but the San Antonio Spurs' "Twin Towers" experiment seems to be a smashing success.

Veteran star David Robinson and rookie sensation Tim Duncan have led the Spurs - with the only setback in overtime against the world champion Bulls in Chicago.Against the Utah Jazz Saturday night, however, the Twin Towers put the Spurs into a position to win, but it took the other guys on the team to finish the job. With Robinson and Duncan sitting on the bench after fouling out, the Spurs held off the Jazz, 87-80.

San Antonio improved to 4-1 with the victory. The Jazz remained winless this season against teams not named the Nuggets, falling to 2-4 overall.

Despite the game being a foul-plagued, lousy-shooting, turnover fest by both teams, the final minutes were chock full of suspense. The Jazz trailed by just one point with 29 seconds remaining. It took four straight free throws by NBA journeyman Jaren Jackson to send the Jazz out of the Alamo city waving a white flag.

"We probably set the Western World of basketball back about 47 years," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

Utah led most of the way - by eight at one point in the third quarter. But the Spurs, behind several key plays by Duncan, rallied in the fourth quarter to take a nine-point advantage. Then Robinson, who scored 28 points with eight rebounds, fouled out with 2:59 to play. Duncan, who scored eight with a game-high 13 rebounds and four blocked shots, followed suit a minute later.

"It was a very physical and tightly called game," said Robinson. "It was like a war of attrition out there."

Suddenly, the Spurs were left to face the final two minutes looking suspiciously like the bunch, without Robinson and Duncan, that went 20-82 last season.

Sure enough, their lead evaporated. A pair of Karl Malone free throws with 24.1 seconds left pulled the Jazz to within one, 80-79.

But Jackson calmly swished a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left to put San Antonio up by three. After Malone made one of two free throws for the Jazz, Jackson hit two more with 18.7 ticks remaining, giving San Antonio a 84-80 lead. The game, for all intents, was over.

"I dream about situations like these, shooting free throws at the end of a close game," said Jackson, who tried out for the Jazz at one time and is now with his eighth NBA team in as many years. "It was a great game."

At least it was for the winners. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan didn't think it was so hot.

"We played panicky late and made some mistakes, especially when we had an eight-point lead," Sloan said. "We missed a lot of free throws tonight."

Fourteen free throws were missed, to be exact. The reason

Utah had so many free throws was because the Spurs committed a team-record 45 fouls. It was also the most-ever fouls by a Jazz opponent.

Utah did its share of hacking, too. The Jazz committed 36 fouls and had four players finish with five each.

"The referees were calling it both ways, so we can't complain," said Jazz center Greg Foster, who finished with 11 points. "But it was called so tight that it was hard to get anything going."

Robinson and Duncan had their battles with Malone and Greg Ostertag, but the most intense confrontation was between the Admiral and Jeff Hornacek.

The Jazz guard set several picks on Robinson, who took offense and threw Hornacek to the ground. Hornacek was not pleased.

"You set a pick on him and he throws an elbow at your head," said Hornacek. "They let him get away with running guys over. I guess he doesn't like getting picked."

Malone finished with a team-high 26 points, but missed two free throws in the final minute and turned the ball over seven times.

Just as the Spurs had hoped, they are quickly finding out that Duncan is similar to all-star center David Robinson in many ways - only 11 years younger.

Duncan, the top pick in the NBA draft last June, can score like Robinson. He can block shots and rebound like Robinson. He works hard and is a quality individual off the court like Robinson. He shoots free throws like, well, like Shaquille O'Neal.

So he's not perfect, as his 44-percent free-throw shooting attests. He's still impressive.

Sloan is a believer.

"Tim Duncan is just at talented as anyone who plays in this league," said Sloan. "He just knows basketball."