SEATTLE - Ray Allen's 20 points and Vitaly Potapenko's big defensive stop were just enough to save the Seattle SuperSonics.
Allen had an impact despite going scoreless in the final period and Potapenko forced Tim Duncan into a missed 4-footer at the final horn, lifting Seattle to a 92-91 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
Reserve Antonio Daniels had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Jerome James scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the floor, helping the Sonics pull to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in Seattle.
Duncan scored 23 points with 11 rebounds, and his defense was as solid as ever - four blocked shots - on the day he was selected to the NBA's All-Defensive Team for the sixth straight year.
But it wasn't enough to carry the Spurs, who had won six straight playoff games. And this win was critical for the Sonics, because no team has ever won a seven-game playoff series after trailing 3-0.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each scored 18 points, but Seattle did a much better job defensively by keeping San Antonio's quick guards out of the paint. Parker had 29 points in Game 1 and Ginobili 28 in Game 2.
Ginobili made a free throw with 29.3 seconds on the clock, pulling San Antonio to 92-91. After a timeout, the Sonics got the ball to Allen, whose attempt over Duncan from the left baseline bounced off the rim.
That left the Spurs with 2.9 seconds for a final chance. Ginobili inbounded to Duncan, who drove to his left on Potapenko. Duncan got a decent look at the basket, but his shot bounced off the rim at the horn.
The Sonics held San Antonio without a field goal over the final 4:27. From there, the Spurs hit 4-for-10 from the foul line.
Daniels made two free throws to tie it at 88, and then Nick Collison scored over Duncan to put Seattle up 90-88 with 2:33 remaining.
The Sonics, outplayed decisively in double-digit losses to open the series in Texas, came out with the game they had to have. Coach Nate McMillan, sensing his team was tight, wanted the Sonics to have fun.
"Just go hoop and play some basketball," he told them before tipoff.
They cut down on the 31 turnovers they committed over two games in San Antonio, limiting themselves to 11 this time for only nine Spurs points. And they did a better job of forcing the pace so the Spurs were unable to jam the lane defensively.
San Antonio led by 10 in the first half and 87-84 after Parker drove for the Spurs' final field goal with 4:27 to play.
A big reason the Spurs couldn't deliver a knockout punch was their free throw shooting. A 72 percent team from the line during the regular season that had made 76 percent in the playoffs, San Antonio hit just 55.9 percent this time.
This one was very physical - a real bruiser.
Daniels caught Robert Horry's knee on his sore left knee, Ginobili took Danny Fortson's elbow in his face - and later another from Daniels. Glenn Robinson drew a technical for shoving Seattle's Rashard Lewis into referee Bernie Fryer during a break in play.
The Sonics' Reggie Evans left late in the third quarter with a bruised back, and Lewis left with 3½ minutes remaining with a hyperextended big toe on his left foot.
Allen missed his first six shots and went 2-for-10 in the first half. Still, the Sonics kept it close, trailing 51-49 at halftime. When Allen swished his first two shots in the third quarter, anything seemed possible.
Notes: Allen had made 45 straight free throws until missing a technical foul shot midway through the second period.... The Spurs are 15-1 all-time in series where they lead 2-0.... Bowen, Allen's nemesis in recent seasons, was roundly booed during introductions. Brent Barry, who played five seasons in Seattle from 1999-2004, got a big cheer.