Parker lifts Spurs past Hornets
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did not want anyone to acknowledge it was his 66th birthday, let alone celebrate it.
Still, the Spurs serenaded Popovich after presenting the often cranky coach with their sixth straight win at home, moving him three games closer to 1,000 career victories.
Tony Parker scored 17 points and San Antonio overcame another lethargic third quarter to beat the Charlotte Hornets 95-86 Wednesday night.
Popovich pretended not to understand when a reporter asked him about his birthday, which was a warmer response than he offered his players.
Parker recoiled when asked about Popovich’s birthday.
"He doesn’t like it (celebration); you’re going to get me in trouble," Parker said. "We sang for him, but yeah, he hates it. Yeah, it was after the game, the whole team sang to him."
Popovich may not have enjoyed the attention, but he was OK with how the day ended.
Danny Green had 16 points and Tim Duncan added 12 points and 14 rebounds as San Antonio won its ninth straight over Charlotte.
Gerald Henderson scored 18 points, Al Jefferson had 17 points and 16 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 14 points for Charlotte. The Hornets were without star guard Kemba Walker, who will be out at least six weeks following surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
San Antonio built an 18-point lead in the first half as Charlotte struggled to fill its point guard depth without Walker, but the Spurs gave it all back just as quickly. San Antonio shot 4 for 21 from the field in the third quarter, but maintained its lead by hitting five free throws in the final 2 minutes.
"We went through a little dry spell in the third quarter," Green said. "It seemed like there was a lid on the basket, but we kept moving, kept finding each other, and kept penetrating. Our defense is what kept us in the lead."
The Spurs did not make another field goal in the third quarter following Matt Bonner’s 3-pointer with 7:18 remaining. Lance Stephenson punctuated the dry spell with an emphatic swat of Aron Bayne’s attempted reverse layup in the closing seconds of the period.
"Sticking to our defensive rules," Jefferson said of Charlotte’s run. "San Antonio is a team that wants to drive middle every time. Get the ball in the middle of the paint and make plays for everybody else. We did a good job defending that in the third quarter."
Bonner’s 3 to open the fourth quarter ended an 8:22 drought and reinvigorated the Spurs. San Antonio made four 3s in the final quarter in rebuilding a double-digit lead.
The victory proved difficult even without Walker.
In addition to being the team’s starting point guard, Walker also leads the Hornets in scoring (18.8), assists (5.2) and steals (1.4)
With Walker out, Parker attacked the lane against the slower Brian Roberts and scored nine of the Spurs’ first 13 points. Parker closed the run with a 17-foot jumper over Roberts for a 13-12 lead with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter.
Despite Parker’s early success, the Hornets played the Spurs even when Roberts was in.
It was once Roberts exited that Charlotte struggled.
San Antonio made four 3s in a 14-2 run bridging the first and second quarter with Roberts out.
After Green hit a 3 that led P.J. Hairston to roll his eyes and look skyward in frustration, Mills’ second 3 of the run gave San Antonio a 33-19 lead with 10:42 remaining in the first half.
Hornets: Charlotte is 7-14 on the road this season. … Hornets coach Steve Clifford allowed Neal to give the pregame scouting report on his former team. His biggest advice? Manu Ginobili goes left. … Charlotte’s lone victory in San Antonio came Nov. 15, 2006, a 92-85 win in overtime.
Spurs: San Antonio is 8-3 in its last 11 games, second only to Atlanta (11-0) during that stretch. … After failing to reach an agreement with F JaMychal Green on a second, 10-day contract, the Spurs signed F Reggie Williams of the Oklahoma City Blue on Wednesday. The 6-foot-6 Williams was averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 13 games with the Blue before signing a 10-day contract with the Spurs. … San Antonio is 18-2 overall against Charlotte, losing once on the road and once at home to the Hornets.
Popovich was asked if he demanded Duncan sing "Happy Birthday" to him, which drew a mischievous look from the Spurs coach. "Tim and I don’t talk, we don’t talk," Popovich said. "We stopped talking six, seven, eight years ago."
Clifford said losing Walker is obviously a tough blow for the young Hornets, but he believes the team can persevere without their leader. "It’s a conscious decision for all of us," Clifford said. "We can take the easy way out when we’re playing without (Kemba), but obviously, to me there is a toughness and intelligence about the group of guys that are playing right now that should allow us to win here going forward."
Hornets: At Denver on Saturday.
Spurs: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.