With Game 5 hanging in the balance, Blake Griffin just couldn't catch a break.
Duncan's block was an instant classic. With a little over a minute remaining in regulation and San Antonio leading 107-105, Griffin faked past Danny Green near the free throw line and challenged Duncan directly. The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer stonewalled the attempt, deflecting the ball to the ground.
The Spurs then stripped Griffin as he tried to put up a second attempt and took off with the ball going the other way.
"That might have been the play of the game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "[Duncan's] timing is just impeccable. He has a hard time jumping over a proverbial piece of paper. He gets in position."
After the two teams exchanged free throws, the Clippers set up a final play with less than 10 seconds remaining and the Spurs clinging to a 108-107 lead. Griffin again took the ball in to the paint, flipping a shot up over the top of Duncan. This time, the attempt cleared Duncan but rimmed off, and Jordan made contact with the ball while it was in the cylinder as he tipped it into the hoop.
The officials ruled that Jordan was guilty of offensive basket interference, thereby nullifying his tip-in and preventing Griffin's original attempt from having a chance to bounce in. A video replay confirmed this ruling, giving the Spurs the ball. A combined three free throws from Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard helped ice the crucial win.
"It was a dumba-- play," Jordan told reporters, according to ClipperBlog. "You can't blame anybody but me."
Griffin's nightmare was the Spurs' dream. San Antonio (No. 6) now leads the first-round series 3-2 over L.A. (No. 3) with Game 6 set for the AT&T Center on Thursday. The winner of the series will face the Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals. Houston (No. 2) closed out Dallas (No. 7) in five games on Tuesday.
Duncan finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. His block on Griffin was his only registered rejection of the night. Kawhi Leonard added 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the win.
Griffin led all scorers with 30 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Chris Paul added 19 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in a losing effort.