Spurs End Skid in New Orleans
Gameday: Spurs @ Hornets: 1/23/12
NEW ORLEANS (AP) As Tim Duncan strode forcefully into the lane for a running hook in the final seconds, Tony Parker could not help but be reminded of a couple of the greatest players the NBA has ever known.
"It was a mix of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson -a kind of sky-hook, and we'll take it," Parker said of Duncan's 13-foot game-winner over Hornets center Emeka Okafor with 1.4 seconds left.
The shot capped a season-high 28-point performance by the Spurs' 15-year veteran star forward and sent New Orleans to an eighth straight loss, 104-102 on Monday night.
"Okafor played pretty good defense and that's the shot I had had, and just luckily made it," Duncan said. "I couldn't do it again if I tried, but it went in that time. That's all that matters."
Parker added 20 points and a career-high 17 assists for the Spurs, who snapped a two-game skid, while Richard Jefferson added 14 points and Tiago Splitter added 12 points.
The Hornets inbounded the ball to Carl Landry for a desperation 3-pointer that could have won it as time expired, but the shot fell short, dooming New Orleans to its 14th loss in 15 games.
Jarrett Jack led the Hornets with 26 points and nine assists. Trevor Ariza tied a season high with 18 points and Landry also scored 18.
"Its' extremely frustrating," Jack said. "The good part is that we gave ourselves a chance. ... It just comes down to making plays. There are a couple that I am kicking myself about that I wasn't able to complete."
The Spurs led 102-98 after Duncan's free throws with 1:16 to go, setting up a thrilling finish to a game that included 15 lead changes and eight ties.
Jack hit a reverse layup in a crowd to make it a one-score game, then the Hornets got a pair of critical defensive stops to set up Landry's tip-in of Jack's missed floater, tying it with 5.2 seconds left.
The Spurs immediately took timeout and then fed the ball to Duncan, who had no intention of giving it up as he went strong to the lane for his winning shot, quieting a crowd that was on its feet and begging for one more stop.
Hornets coach Monty Williams said he sensed what was coming when he saw San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich say something to Duncan as the Spurs left their bench after the timeout.
"I told Emeka, `It's coming to you,"' Williams said. "He made a tough shot. You'd take that defense every time. It's just that (Duncan has) been there, done that. That's why he is one of the best power forwards of all time and one of the best players in the history of the game. Those situations don't bother him."
What did bother Duncan and the Spurs was the trouble they'd been having on the road. The victory in New Orleans was only their second in eight away games.
"I just wanted to win on the road, honestly," Duncan said. "I don't remember the road ever being this tough."
New Orleans led most of the third quarter and was up 80-74 late in the period after Jack's jumper, but Jefferson responded with one of his four 3-pointers and Parker converted a difficult driving scoop to cut it to 80-79 heading into the final quarter.
Popovich credited Parker with picking up all aspects of his game while Manu Ginobili has been has been out with a broken left hand.
"He's scoring for us, but he's finding players and involving everybody," Popovich said. "He's doing a great job of keeping us together."
The Hornets, who had turned the ball over only eight times through the first three quarters, turned it over six times in the fourth, which hurt in a game that went down to the wire and wound up being New Orleans' third-straight two-point loss to a Southwest Division opponent.
Both teams shot well, with the Spurs hitting 55 percent (41 of 75) and the Hornets, who had struggled to break 90 points recently, connecting on nearly 51 percent (42 of 83). New Orleans was strong inside, outscoring San Antonio 42-40 in the paint and outrebounding the Spurs 40-27.
Marco Belinelli had 12 points for New Orleans and Okafor 10.
Gary Neal scored 10 for the Spurs, hitting both 3s he attempted.
Looking to get over the hump after consecutive close losses to Houston and Dallas, New Orleans raced to a 22-13 lead. The Spurs then responded with a 12-2 run that included three jumpers by Duncan - one of them a running bank shot - to go up 25-24.
The Spurs built a first-half lead as large as six when Parker's 22-foot jumper made it 42-36. The game remained tight for the remainder of the opening half, which ended with San Antonio leading 56-55.
Notes: The Hornets reached 100 points for the first time this season. ... Hornets G Xavier Henry, who has been recovering from a right ankle injury, was activated for the first time but did not play. ... The Hornets' home losing streak is now nine games. ... Movie stars Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes and Camryn Manheim took time out from filming a basketball-themed movie in New Orleans to attend the game in courtside seats. They were among the announced crowd of 12,599.
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