After 16 seasons, Tim Duncan knows the NBA postseason is no time for mercy. Particularly when an opponent is down and seemingly ready to...

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LOS ANGELES — After 16 seasons, Tim Duncan knows the NBA postseason is no time for mercy. Particularly when an opponent is down and seemingly ready to go out.

In the opening minutes of Game 3, Duncan made three consecutive baskets and blocked Dwight Howard’s shot, dominating with his usual ruthless grace.

He put the San Antonio Spurs ahead to stay, and they ended up handing the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers their biggest home playoff loss in franchise history.

After a 120-89 victory Friday night, all that’s left is the finish — something Duncan and the Spurs also know how to do pretty well.

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Duncan had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Tony Parker had 20 points and seven assists in a largely silent Staples Center as San Antonio pushed the Lakers to the brink of first-round playoff elimination for the first time since 2007.

“We respect these guys, and we’re not trying to give them any momentum whatsoever,” Duncan said.

The short-handed Lakers played without their top four guards due to injury, and the Spurs posted their biggest win of a series thoroughly controlled by coach Gregg Popovich’s playoff-tested club.

“I think we’re playing fairly well,” Popovich said. “Whether the team you’re playing is whole, or banged up like the Lakers are … we have to bring the energy and the professionalism to play.”

Other games

At Warriors 110,

Nuggets 108

Stephen Curry played through a sprained left ankle to score 29 points and Golden State beat Denver to take a 2-1 series lead.

Curry also had 11 assists, Jarrett Jack had 23 points and seven assists, and Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry each scored 19 points to help the Warriors rally from 13 points down in the third quarter. Golden State still had to sweat out Andre Iguodala’s missed three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, setting off a gold-confetti celebration for the sellout crowd of 19,596.

“Feels good. Just thankful to be able to get through the game without any incidents,” Curry said.

Ty Lawson had a career playoff-high 35 points to go with 10 assists, and reserve Corey Brewer scored 16 as Denver dropped its second straight game.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Oakland.

Knicks 90,

at Celtics 76

The New York Knicks want to finish their long road back to the second round quickly.

They haven’t won a playoff series in 13 years, and now they have a shot to end this one in four games.

“Guys are hungry,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We really want this, we feel like it’s right there in the palm of our hands.”

Anthony scored 26 points and the Knicks moved to the brink of a sweep, routing the Celtics in Game 3 of the first-round series.

Quickly taking the crowd out of it in the first NBA game here since the Boston Marathon bombings, the Knicks built a 16-point halftime lead and now are on the verge of taking out the Celtics.

Raymond Felton had 15 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who haven’t advanced in the playoffs since reaching the 2000 Eastern Conference finals. Game 4 is here Sunday afternoon.

They’ll have to hope they have J.R. Smith, who inexplicably threw an elbow right into former Franklin High star Jason Terry’s face with 7:06 left and was thrown out of the game with a flagrant foul 2, an automatic ejection. The league office will review the play and can fine or suspend Smith.

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