NEW YORK (AP) _ Despite a strong start from Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs trailed the New York Knicks 23-20 after the first quarter Friday night as they tried to clinch their first NBA championship.

Duncan hit two jumpers, a hook shot and two free throws for eight points in the quarter, but the Knicks did not seem fazed as they faced elimination on their home court in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. New York took a 15-11 lead on a jumper by Kurt Thomas, and the Madison Square Garden crowd came to life when Latrell Sprewell drove the middle for a layup and a 21-15 lead with 1:25 left.

Duncan hit two free throws, and Jaren Jackson hit a 3-pointer to close the deficit to 21-20, and New York's Charlie Ward hit a jumper to make it 23-20. The New York crowd wanted a foul called when Allan Houston missed at the buzzer.

Sprewell had seven points in the quarter for the Knicks, who were trying to send the series back to San Antonio for Game 6 on Sunday. The Spurs are seeking the first championship in franchise history and the first for a former American Basketball Association team.

One key for the Knicks was the early play of Larry Johnson, who scored two straight baskets on powerful drives after shooting 2-for-8 _ mostly outside _ in Game 4.

But New York's Marcus Camby, who avoided foul trouble in Game 4, picked up his second foul 3 1/2 minutes into the game when Mario Elie tripped over his foot. Camby went to the bench and was replaced by Thomas, who promptly fouled David Robinson leading to a three-point play and a 7-6 Spurs lead.