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Posted Jan 22 2007 1:30AM
The San Antonio Spurs are the last team the slumping Boston Celtics want to play.
The Spurs look to win their 18th straight game over the lowly Celtics when they meet at TD Banknorth Garden on Monday.
San Antonio (29-13) hasn't lost to Boston (12-27) since a 107-83 defeat on Jan. 8, 1997, and rarely have the games been close during its win streak.
The Spurs have won 11 of the 17 games by double digits and both meetings last season by an average of 16.5 points. Eight of the victories have come at Boston, where the Spurs are shooting 52.0 percent from the floor and outscoring the Celtics by 14.7 points.
Two-time MVP Tim Duncan has never lost to Boston in his career, averaging 22.4 points and 11.4 rebounds in 16 games against the Celtics.
Duncan finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday's 99-85 win over Philadelphia, and has five double-doubles in his last six games.
"He's really been the guy on the board for us,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan. "Every night he's really focused on that part of the game and been great on the board.''
Against the 76ers, Duncan and the Spurs got some help from Brant Barry, who came off the bench to score 23 points - one shy of his season high.
Barry hit 5-of-8 of his 3-pointers to help San Antonio get out of its recent shooting funk from beyond the arc.
The Spurs are the second-best 3-point shooting team in the league (39.3 percent), but connected on just 26.2 percent (27-of-103) of their 3s in their previous five games before making 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) on Sunday.
Tony Parker had just eight points - more than 11 below his season average - against Philadelphia, but is averaging 22.0 points while shooting 54.2 percent in his last three games against the Celtics.
While San Antonio has won six of eight games following a season-high three-game losing streak, Boston fell to Washington 115-110 in overtime on Saturday to lose its seventh straight game.
The Celtics have lost 14 of their last 16 games, and have not lost eight in a row since a 10-game skid from March 20-April 7, 2000.
"I just wish there was some way I could get them a win because they're playing with unbelievable emotion, unbelievable spirit,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said.
The Celtics, who are missing injured players Paul Pierce, Theo Ratliff, Brian Scalabrine and Wally Szczerbiak, trailed by 21 points in the second half on Saturday, but went on a 30-10 run to comeback and force overtime.
"Some teams might have tanked it in the third quarter when we were down 21 and they kept pressing us, but we played great defense ... Still, at the end of the day, we want to win,'' said Ryan Gomes, who scored a career-high 31 points.
Gomes is averaging 19.3 points in his last four games after averaging 8.5 points in his previous 11.
Al Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Wizards, and is averaging 19.0 and 15.0, respectively, in his last four games. He averages 13.8 points and 10.3 rebounds overall.
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