But Finley got the ball with the game on the line Sunday as the Los Angeles Lakers swarmed Tim Duncan, and his 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in overtime gave the cold-shooting Spurs an improbable 96-94 victory.
"It looked like it was going in, but I didn't know until it went in," Finley said with a smile. "It was just a normal shot for me. We wanted Tim to create for himself, first of all. If he wasn't able to, he was supposed to kick it out to a teammate, as he always does."
Duncan found Finley, who shot from well beyond the arc and hit nothing but net on his long jumper over Lamar Odom, helping the Spurs avoid their first regular-season sweep at hands of the Lakers in nine years.
"Mike stepped into it and it was just an incredible shot," Duncan said. "Those are the kinds of shots we want him to step up and take."
Finley, who entered averaging 7.7 points, scored 17 on five 3-pointers in 10 attempts along with another basket.
"Some things we planned, some things we didn't, but that was just the fortuitous circumstance that he knocked down the shot," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Sometimes, you've just got to be lucky."
Vladimir Radmanovic's 3-pointer as time expired didn't come close. Kobe Bryant, who had 31 points, six rebounds and seven assists, was unable to get open, leaving it up to Radmanovic to try the final shot.
"They're just going to set two guys on me -- and the guy taking the ball out," Bryant said. "I tried to make cuts off of that accordingly, and I just wasn't able to get a good look."
The Spurs won despite shooting a season-low 33.7 percent (32-of-95). But they made their last two shots to go 5-of-8 in overtime, when Tony Parker scored seven of his 19 points.
"We just couldn't make a shot," said Manu Ginobili, who had 21 points and seven rebounds. "Even in the overtime, when they made their first four shots, we stuck with it. It's great to win like this."
Duncan's layup with 20 seconds to play gave the Spurs a 93-92 lead, but Bryant's 20-foot jumper over Bruce Bowen with 7 seconds left put the Lakers on top, setting the stage for Finley.
San Antonio entered having shot 47.4 percent with a low of 37.5 percent in a game against Charlotte in November.
"We played a great game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We competed with a good team and we carried the day. We probably carried the lead for 45 minutes in that game. That's the way to play -- we just didn't finish it the right way."
The Lakers shot 42.7 percent, but were outrebounded 53-44. And free throws were a major factor -- the Spurs went 22-of-24 from the foul line while Los Angeles was 18-of-31.
Duncan had 21 points, 14 rebounds, a season-high nine assists and three blocked shots to lead the Spurs (32-14), who have won nine of their last 12.
Odom had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, Andrew Bynum added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Radmanovic had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers (27-17), who have lost four of their last five.
Baskets by Radmanovic and Bynum on assists from Bryant to start the overtime gave the Lakers a four-point lead, but Parker scored seven straight San Antonio points before two free throws by Ginobili put the Spurs on top 91-90 with 1:13 left.
Bryant, who scored six points in the extra period, put the Lakers ahead again by making a jumper with 1:01 to go.
Bryant made two free throws with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter to give the Lakers a 75-66 lead, but the Spurs scored 10 of the next 11 points on two 3-pointers by Ginobili, a basket by Duncan and two free throws by Parker to tie it at 76 with 1:19 to play.
A free throw by Odom gave the Lakers a one-point lead, but Bowen's first basket in seven attempts -- a 3-pointer with 54.1 seconds to go -- put the Spurs on top by two.
Ginobili made a foul shot to give the Spurs a three-point lead before Radmanovic's 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds left tied it at 80.
Robert Horry, who made several winning shots during his 6 1/2 seasons with Los Angeles, missed a 3-pointer over Bryant from the left corner with about 5 seconds left. The Lakers got the rebound and called a timeout before Ginobili blocked Bryant's potential winning 20-footer as time expired.
- The game was the opener of an eight-game road trip for the Spurs. They are 16-6 away from home. The Lakers open an eight-game road trip of their own Tuesday night in New York. They're 8-11 on the road.
- The Lakers played without C Kwame Brown and F Luke Walton, both sidelined with sprained ankles. Walton, injured Friday night, is expected to be out at least a week. Brown hasn't played since Dec. 31, but hopes to return during the upcoming road trip.
- The Lakers beat the Spurs 106-99 and 100-96 earlier this season.
- Bowen committed his first three fouls -- all on Bryant -- in the first 70 seconds of the third quarter.
- Bynum picked up a technical foul early in the third quarter.