SAN ANTONIO -- Tim Duncan can be slowed for a while. So can David Robinson. Stopping them both? Forget it.
Not even the deep, talented and big Portland Trail Blazers could quite contain San Antonio's Twin Towers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Duncan and Robinson each scored 21 points Saturday as the Spurs held off the Blazers 80-76.
"They're a very athletic team. That kind of neutralizes our size advantage a little bit," Robinson said. "But having two 7-footers, it's still a little bit of an advantage."
In this case, a four-point advantage.
Rasheed Wallace, who scored a career playoff-high 28 points for Portland, missed a game-tying, wide-open 20-foot jumper with six seconds to go and the Spurs leading 78-76.
It was a pick-and-roll play, with Robinson defending Wallace. The Spurs' center switched to help out on guard Greg Anthony as he drove, then Anthony kicked it back to Wallace.
"Boy, you hate to see a guy's who's rolling like that get an open look at the basket like he did," Robinson said. "But we were lucky it went off."
The ball bounced off the rim and over the backboard.
"For that split second I was wide open," Wallace said. "Once it released from my hands, I thought it was good, but it came up short."
Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said the shot was everything he could have wanted.
"It's a great shot for him," Dunleavy said. "I'll put my money on that any time. It's a high, high percentage shot for him. It just didn't go."
Mario Elie, who held Portland's Isaiah Rider to 13 points and made a driving layup to put the Spurs ahead 78-74 with 2:35 to play, clinched San Antonio's seventh consecutive playoff victory with two free throws with 4.3 seconds to play.
Duncan stole the inbounds pass to finish it in front of an Alamadome crowd of 35,165. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Monday night.
The Blazers stopped Duncan most of the first half, but he scored 14 points in the second. He also grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots. Robinson, who came through when Duncan didn't, grabbed 10 rebounds and made two crucial plays in the last 5:35.
"They're a tough duo, no question about it," Dunleavy said. "I thought a number of shots they made were as well defended as we could possibly defend them."
In their second season together, Duncan and Robinson have learned how to take advantage of the matchup nightmare they create.
"Tim and David are going to get double-teamed and aren't afraid to make a pass," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "`They are unselfish, and don't care who gets the shots."
Robinson's three-point play with 5:35 remaining put San Antonio up 73-65, and his inside basket with 3:55 to play gave the Spurs a 75-69 lead.
"Dave was huge tonight," Duncan said. "We need for him to play like that every night. He played great defense, rebounded the ball and hit big shots when we needed them."
The Spurs have won four of five from the Blazers this season, but in all four losses, Portland has played San Antonio right to the wire. This one was no different.
The Blazers, playing less than 48 hours after eliminating Utah in the conference semifinals, mounted one last challenge.
Walt Williams made a 3-pointer and Wallace hit consecutive jumpers over Duncan to cut the lead to 78-76 with 1:39 to play.
The next time down court, Duncan stepped on the end line. But the Blazers turned it over, too, when Brian Grant lost the ball out of bounds as the shot clock was about to expire.
San Antonio took the ball down court, but Greg Anthony, who scored eight of his 10 points in the final quarter, stole Avery Johnson's pass to give the Blazers the ball again with 39 seconds to go. After a Spurs' foul, the Blazers worked for the tying shot, and Wallace, who finished 12-for-20 from the field, got the open look but the shot was just a little short.
Duncan had eight points in the third quarter as the Spurs led by as many as seven, 55-48, and were up 59-56 going into the fourth quarter.
The Spurs shot 40.8 percent but that was offset by Portland's 16 turnovers, compared with eight for San Antonio.
Depth has carried the Blazers this far, but some of their big guns misfired in Game 1.
Rider, averaging 19 points in the playoffs, was 6-for-14 from the field, most of the time against Elie, who had three steals. Rider scored eight in the third quarter but only five the rest of the game.
Grant also had a sub-par game with eight points and seven rebounds, and Arvydas Sabonis was just 2-for-7 from the field with five points and six rebounds.
Statistically at least, San Antonio won the game at the free throw line, where they were 17-for-22, compared with Portland's 8-for-9.
Notes: In the second quarter, Duncan asked referee Joe Crawford if he was allowed to move along the baseline while inbounding the ball from under the Blazers' basket after a technical foul against Sabonis. Crawford wrongly said yes, then referee Jess Kersey called Duncan for traveling. ... The Blazers were whistled for three technicals, one on Wallace, one on Sabonis and one for a second illegal defense call. ... The starting point guards had rough shooting games -- Damon Stoudamire of Portland was 1-for-6, while Johnson was 4-for-12. ... The Blazers called a timeout with 4:31 left in the third when Wallace hurt his right leg, but he stayed in the game. ... The Spurs' Jerome Kersey appeared in his 119th playoff game. ... The Blazers did not make a substitution in the third quarter. ... Wallace's previous playoff high was 21 points. He topped that in the third quarter. ... The Spurs are 8-1 in the playoffs and 39-6 since a shaky 6-8 start to their regular season.