Duncan scores 19 to lead Spurs past Hornets
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs rose to the top of the Western Conference standings by overpowering the weakest team in the conference.
Tim Duncan scored 19 points to lead San Antonio to a 128-103 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night, giving the Spurs their 10th straight win.
Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills scored 14 points apiece, and Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal each added 13 for the Spurs, who scored 72 points in the first half and swept the four-game season series.
The win, coupled with Oklahoma City's loss to Indiana, moved the Spurs percentage points ahead of the Thunder for first place in the West. The Spurs were prevented from clinching their 15th consecutive playoff berth when Houston beat the Los Angeles Lakers later Friday.
The last time the Spurs didn't make the playoffs was in 1996-97, the season before Duncan arrived.
Duncan said the team's strong play at the outset was a result of its struggles late against Boston on Wednesday.
"We didn't play well the second half of the last game, so we wanted to come out and be a little more focused and play a little better," Duncan said. "It was a good start for us. We got a lot of people in, a lot of different players in. Everybody we kept rotating in kept playing well, so it was a great team effort."
Eric Gordon, playing in only his second game in three months, scored 31 points to lead the Hornets, who have lost four of their last five games. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Carl Landry scored 13, and Greivis Vasquez added 12.
San Antonio jumped out to a 72-45 halftime lead and was never threatened the second half. As a result, the Spurs, who have played much of the season without Ginobili because of injuries, sit atop the West.
"It's great, but there's too many games left," Duncan said. "We're going to go through some ups and downs. We're going to lose some games. They're going to lose some games. We'll see how we come out at the other end, but at this point of the season, we haven't been playing for that. But it's great to be in that situation."
The easy win gave the Spurs their second streak of at least 10 victories — they won 11 straight earlier this season — and also allowed coach Gregg Popovich to rest his stars.
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