Parker, Ginobili power Spurs past Knicks, 95-88

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) The newcomers haven’t come around as quickly as hoped, causing San Antonio’s so-so start to the season.

Good thing the Spurs can rely on
their championship trio of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan
until the new guys figure it out.

Parker scored 22 points, Ginobili
added 17, and they made the key plays in the final minutes to power the
Spurs to a 95-88 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday night.

“Down the stretch they know exactly
where to go and how to execute,” Knicks center David Lee said. “That’s
from years from playing together. They did that tonight. Parker hit a
couple of tough ones down the stretch and so did Ginobili.”

Duncan finished with 13 points while
being outplayed by Lee, but Parker and Ginobili combined for all of San
Antonio’s points after the game was tied at 84 with under 3 1/2 minutes
remaining. The Spurs won for the eighth time in 10 games following a
three-game skid earlier this month.

“David had an excellent game and my
shot wasn’t falling, but T.P. stepped up, Manu stepped up, we had a lot
of guys step up and play well,” Duncan said. “So we got enough done to
get the win.”

Lee matched a season high with 28
points on 11-of-13 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, but the Knicks
finished 3-2 on their five-game homestand after losing the last two.
Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington each scored 19.

The Knicks held an opponent under 100
points for the 10th straight time, the first time they’ve done that
since a 19-game stretch from Feb. 18-March 26, 2001. But they wasted
that effort with another poor night from the perimeter, going 2 for 16
from 3-point range.

“We’re playing a really good team
that’s playing well, so you’ve got to give them credit, but at the same
time we missed two fouls shots, missed a layup (and) wide-open 3s,”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If you don’t make those against this
team, you’re not going to have many chances to beat them.”

Expected to be one of the league’s
top teams after bringing in players such as Richard Jefferson and
Antonio McDyess during a busy offseason, the Spurs instead started
slowly, with coach Gregg Popovich admitting it’s taken his team longer
than he hoped to grasp his system. They were only 9-9 following their
three-game losing streak, but are now 17-11 and usually play better in
the second half of the season.

“The whole season is about jelling
for us, try to adapt to all the new guys,” Parker said. “We changed
more than half of the team, so it’ll take some time.

“It’s different, because we’ve got a
lot of new guys and everybody’s trying to do the right thing, trying to
play unselfish, and moving the ball and I think it will take some time.
But I think we’re going to the right direction. I think we’re on the
right track.”

Ginobili snapped an 84-all tie with
a long jumper with 3:25 remaining – it was originally called a
3-pointer but overturned by video review – and after Chris Duhon missed
a pair of free throws, Parker and Ginobili scored on drives to the
basket to make it 90-84 with 2:12 remaining. Parker answered Lee’s
basket by converting a three-point play, extending it to 93-86 with
1:06 to go.

Ginobili added a pair of free throws
with 15 seconds to go as the Spurs pulled out their second victory in
less than 24 hours, having won at Milwaukee on Saturday night. The
victory delighted the many international fans who turned out to support
Parker and Ginobili, with Parker waving to a large group of cheering
fans after completing an interview on the court after the game.

“I’m very happy with the way I
played the last two games and the way the team played,” Ginobili said.
“It’s going to be a nice trip home.”

The Knicks need to win their final
two games, at Detroit and New Jersey, for their first 10-win month
since going 10-8 in January 2003.

The Spurs took a 21-20 lead after
the first quarter, then began to solve the Knicks’ defense in the
second. San Antonio shot 65 percent in that period, but Lee made all
seven shots for 14 first-half points and the Spurs led only 50-47 at
the break.

New York got the first basket of the
third quarter before the Spurs ran off nine straight points to take the
game’s first double-digit lead at 59-49. The Knicks caught up by the
middle of the period and the lead seesawed from there, with Ginobili’s
3-pointer with 9 seconds left giving San Antonio a 70-68 edge entering
the fourth.

NOTES: Asked for his take on a
schedule that had the Spurs tipping off in New York less than 24 hours
after the start of their game in Milwaukee, Popovich said: “It makes a
lot of sense. I think that any team that can get in night before a
back-to-back, go to bed at 4 or 4:30 in the morning, then play at 6 the
next day, I think that’s a good thing. I think more of us should do
that. Really puts a good product out on the floor. … The Knicks’
93-87 loss to Miami on Christmas earned a 2.0 overnight rating on ESPN,
a 33 percent increase over the New Orleans-Orlando matchup in the same
time slot last year. … The last two matchups in New York had gone to
overtime, each team winning once.

Updated December 27, 2009