Tim Duncan had 24 points and 17 rebounds and Manu Ginobili added 26 points and nine rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs beat the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons 84-69 in the opening game of the NBA finals on Thursday night.
The Spurs trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter but took over the game in the second half as they look to win their third NBA title in seven seasons after winning titles in 1999 and 2003.
Game two in the best-of-seven series is on Sunday night in San Antonio.
Tony Parker added 15 points for the Spurs, who shot just 35 percent in the first half before getting untracked on offense and smothering the Pistons attack in the second half with their tenacious defense.
"I just know that we started out pretty poorly and we got better as the game went along," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
"We came together and played the way we needed to."
The Spurs trailed early and looked sluggish after a long layoff while the Pistons, who needed seven games to eliminate the Miami heat in the Eastern Conference final, had the jump in the early going.
But the Spurs turned that around with an inspired second half, led by Ginobili's hot second-half shooting.
"Other than the first seven, eight minutes we didn't match their energy," Detroit coach Larry Brown said.
"[Ginobili] got a couple of big offensive rebounds, and he was marvelous on both ends," Brown added. "He did a great job defensively."
Chauncey Billups led Detroit with 25 points, but the Pistons were completely dominated at times in the fourth quarter, falling behind by as many as 17 points as they failed to penetrate San Antonio's defense.
"They just really out-worked us, they outplayed us and they outexecuted us in some stretches," Billups said.
Despite being cheered on by a boisterous sell-out crowd, the Spurs struggled early. Detroit went on a 17-2 run after the Spurs scored the first basket of the game to lead by 13 with five minutes left in the opening quarter.
San Antonio finished the quarter on a 13-3 run, leaving the Pistons ahead 20-17 after one quarter. The teams then settled into a tight defensive battle for the rest of the half, with the Pistons leading 37-35 at the break.
The Spurs regained the lead after three quarters, 55-51, and pulled away early in the fourth. The Pistons got back to within seven points at one point, but could get no closer.
Ginobili made several big baskets down the stretch to keep the Spurs in command after a slow start in the opening half for him as well.
"I don't know if I was rusty or nervous or whatever," Ginobili said.
"I tried to calm down, play at a slower pace and things started to go better."