SAN ANTONIO (NBA.com exclusive) -- There's Richard Jefferson. Add Antonio McDyess. Throw in Theo Ratliff. Bring in Keith Bogans. And draft DeJuan Blair.
A bunch of new names have been added to the San Antonio Spurs. But it looks like this team isn't that much different after all. The Spurs still play defense.
The Spurs held the New Orleans Hornets without a field goal for a 9 1/2-minute stretch during the first and second quarter Wednesday on their way to a 113-96 victory over the Hornets in the season opener for both teams at the AT&T Center.
"It was a pretty good start to the season, obviously," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I think our focus got better and we made some shots. Our defense in the first half was good. It was very good."
New Orleans had a 12-6 lead six minutes into the game. But the lead turned into a 16-point deficit when New Orleans missed their next 16 shots from the floor.
The Spurs didn't exactly do it all. New Orleans managed to hit 50 percent shooting for the game after being held to 16-of-42 in the first half, which the Spurs nullified with by shooting 52 percent for the game.
And they couldn't keep Hornets point guard Chris Paul from the bucket. He scored 26 points, including a 5-for-5 showing from the floor while the rest of his team went 2-for-4 during a four-minute stretch in the first half when the Hornets were trying to get back into it.
But Paul was kept below his league-leading season average of 11 assists per game from last season. He had nine, and was limited to the same amount -- six -- as Spurs point guard Tony Parker before Parker left the game with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter when he got the breath knocked out of him on a drive to the basket.
"We did a great job starting off the game as we got into our sets really well and everyone seemed to know the offense and things like that," Paul said. "But (the Spurs) came in and looked like they've been playing with each other for years."
The score-first-limit-the-assists philosophy has served the Spurs well in the past. They employed it in a pair of Western Conference playoff series against the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns on the way to winning the NBA Finals in 2005 and '07.
"More or less it was the same idea," said Spurs sixth player Manu Ginobili, who returned from an injury-plagued season to score 16 points. "We didn't want Chris (Paul) to pick us apart and penetrate, finishing one time and finding Peja (Stojakovic) one time or Mo Peterson the other one.
"We just tried to isolate him and make him make shots. We wanted him to make shots but not involve other people."
Besides all the new faces, the questions regarding the level of defense the Spurs will play this season could be generated from some of the players they lost.
Most noticeably there's the retirement of five-time All-NBA defensive first-team selection Bruce Bowen. He was traded to Milwaukee to get Jefferson (who was 1 of 7 for five points in his debut), then not re-signed when available after being waived by the Bucks. Still, he started only 10 games last year compared to the six-straight seasons he started more than 80 games.
Kurt Thomas, also dependable on defense, left town in that trade as well.
But the Spurs' defensive philosophy didn't, and it was something the newcomers knew quite well before showing up.
"That's their main objective when I came here," said McDyess, the free-agent signee from Detroit. "We're going to grind down on defense. That's the identity of this team. That's what I expected when I got here."
Paul didn't have much help. David West, his All-Star teammate, was 2 of 6 in the first half. The Hornets bench, which was 0-for-9 in the first half, finished by being outscored 61-17 by the Spurs' reserves.
That includes Stojakovic, the 32-year-old replaced by Julian Wright at forward. Stojakovic got his night started with an air ball and a 24-second violation with the ball in his hands.
Second-chance points were just as slim for New Orleans. San Antonio outscored the Hornets 16-4 in that category, boosted by Pitt rookie Blair, who slipped to the 37th overall pick in April. He went 7-for-10 from the floor with 14 points coming mostly from his five offensive rebounds (that's as many offensive rebounds as the Hornets had as a team). He led the nation last year in offensive rebounds for the Panthers.