Spurs 96, Bucks 94 (F)

MILWAUKEE, March 1 (AP) -- After a big win against the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs might have taken the Milwaukee Bucks lightly.

Manu Ginobili scored 30 points and hit a 17-footer with 13.2 seconds left to give San Antonio a 96-94 victory Saturday night over the Bucks, the Spurs' eighth straight victory.

"We are disappointed,'' Ginobili said of the team's effort. "I don't think we approached the game with the right mentality. It's easy to play against Dallas, to bring the right mentality because it's that rivalry and what it means. But you've got to bring it every game because at this point in the season every win is huge for us.''

The Spurs beat Dallas 97-94 on Thursday.

"We're certainly very fortunate to get the win,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Milwaukee probably played better basketball for more minutes than we did. We had a really good third quarter and got back in and found a way to stumble through it at the end.''

The Spurs seemed in control until the Bucks mounted an 11-3 run late in the fourth, capped by Charlie Bell's driving layup that gave the Bucks a 94-93 lead with 20 seconds left.

Ginobili responded with a jumper with Bell flying at him as the Spurs regained the lead 95-94.

"He's a big-time competitor,'' Popovich said. "He has really pulled us along for the last month and a half. He has made a lot of big shots in a lot of big games all around the world. He likes that stage.''

Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak was impressed with Ginobili, too.

"That was a pretty quiet 30 points for Ginobili,'' Krystkowiak said. "He's one heck of a player and it certainly hurt us tonight.''

Bell had one last chance, but lost the ball in traffic on the Bucks' next possession. Tony Parker, who scored 26 points, grabbed the ball and was fouled. He made one free throw.

After a Bucks' timeout, the Bucks worked the ball to Michael Redd who was fouled on a drive to hoop. He missed the first throw and the second on purpose. It almost worked, but Andrew Bogut missed on the putback and the defending NBA champions had a victory.

The Spurs remain the top seed in the Western Conference and are now a game ahead of New Orleans in the Southwest Division.

Parker had his best scoring night since returning Feb. 21 after missing nine games with left ankle inflammation. He shot 11 for 16 in his fifth game back from the injury.

"That was Tony's best game since he came back off the injury,'' Popovich said. "He looked really confident with his shot, which is what we've been looking for. And he attacked aggressively. He looked much more like the Tony that we're used to.''

The Bucks did defend Tim Duncan well. The All-Star power forward, who had at least 23 points and 10 rebounds in each of his last four games, ended up with nine points and seven rebounds.

Redd scored 25 points and Bogut had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who had won three straight home games against Detroit, Denver and Cleveland.

Ginobili's two free throws gave the Spurs their biggest lead at 86-77 with 5:42 to play.

The Bucks hurt their chances at adding the Spurs to the list of playoff contender they had beaten since the All-Star break when Mo Williams was ejected by referee Greg Willard with 7:32 left in the third and the Bucks ahead 58-51.

Williams cut in from behind Parker and swiped at his shot. Willard called a foul and Williams lost it. Redd tried to get Williams away from Willard, but couldn't stop him from shouting at the referee. Willard heard enough and tossed the Bucks' point guard who stayed on the court arguing. He eventually left, but not before ripping off his jersey and tossing it into the crowd.

Popovich said the loss of Williams definitely hurt the Bucks.

"If Tony got booted, it would affect us too,'' Popovich said. "Without a doubt they missed him. It was a big blow for them.''

Ime Udoka made both technicals and Parker sank one free throw, but the Bucks answered with buckets by Desmond Mason, Bogut and Redd for their biggest lead at 64-54.

Notes: San Antonio improved to 17-4 against the Eastern Conference with the victory over Milwaukee. ... Spurs went 10-1 in February. ... Milwaukee hoped to avoid just their second series sweep to San Antonio in the last nine seasons during which they're Bucks have gone 10-7 against the Spurs.


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