Spurs hold off Pistons
By NOAH TRISTER
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) After yet another victory - by double digits, no less - San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich insisted his team isn't ready for the playoffs.
"There are teams playing better than we are," Popovich said. "Just because we have the best record doesn't mean we have the best team. To be that we have to be better defensively."
Tony Parker had 19 points and seven assists, and the Spurs did take a small step toward becoming a tougher defensive team in the second half of a 100-89 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. The Pistons scored only 15 points in the third quarter and never led in the fourth.
DeJuan Blair added 18 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio, which improved its NBA-best record to 43-8. Manu Ginobili scored 13 points for the Spurs, and Tim Duncan contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Will Bynum scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter for Detroit (19-33). The Pistons kept it close in the third quarter despite shooting 7 of 22 in the period, but San Antonio calmly held them at bay in the fourth.
Bynum made a dunk and a 15-footer to pull the Pistons within two at 80-78 with 6:37 remaining in the game, but Ginobili and Matt Bonner made back-to-back 3-pointers. Bonner returned after missing 10 games with a right knee injury and scored 10 points - eight of them in the fourth.
Another 3-pointer by Ginobili made it 89-80.
"It's tough to beat that team, because they play so well together," Bynum said. "They are always moving the ball, and they make shots. You can't make any mistakes against them."
San Antonio had set a record for the franchise's best 50-game start, but the Spurs struggled to pull away from the Pistons. They were ahead 52-51 at halftime, but the lead didn't reach double figures until the final minute.
In a matchup of promising young big men who used to play at Big East schools, Pittsburgh's Blair got the better of Georgetown's Greg Monroe, but not by much. Monroe had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons.
Blair's double-double was his second in a row and seventh since Jan. 1.
"He knows his role, hits the boards hard and has a great touch inside," Popovich said. "He plays the game to win, he's a really competitive young man, and he did a good job."
Richard Jefferson scored 11 points for the Spurs, whose balance proved to be too much for Detroit. All five starters scored in double figures for San Antonio, which became only the fourth opponent to score 100 points in Detroit's last 14 games.
"We did a good job of sharing the ball tonight," said Parker, who scored 11 points in the first quarter without missing a shot.
One game after returning from an extended benching, Detroit's Richard Hamilton sat out Tuesday night's matchup because of a sore right groin. Hamilton scored 15 points in 20 minutes Saturday at Milwaukee, his first action since Jan. 10 after he was benched and even deactivated for Friday night's home game against New Jersey.
"I think last game I kind of tweaked it," Hamilton said. "I think one of the reasons, certain preparation before the game and stuff I've been doing for years, getting myself ready for the game, I didn't get an opportunity to do it because I didn't know that, one, I was going to be active, and two, that I was going to play."
A few players returned from injuries Tuesday. In addition to Bonner, Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey returned after missing five games with a right shoulder injury. Stuckey didn't start but finished with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Detroit's Jason Maxiell, who has been bothered by a back problem, scored two points in his first appearance in four games. It was the first time Maxiell played more than a minute since Jan. 22.
Notes: Detroit plays at Cleveland on Wednesday night, with the Cavaliers trying to snap their record streak of 25 losses. Bynum was asked afterward about the possibility of being the team that finally loses to Cleveland. "We won't be," he said. "We'll be ready. That's why we get paid." ... San Antonio signed F Steve Novak to a 10-day contract before the game. Popovich said Novak's job is to shoot when he goes into the game. Novak played 45 seconds on Tuesday, which was enough time for him to make a 3-pointer. ... San Antonio shot 53 percent but turned the ball over 14 times. Parker alone had six turnovers, as many as the entire Detroit team. ... Platinum Equity chairman Tom Gores, who has expressed an interest in buying the Pistons, was at the game.
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