DeJuan Blair says he no longer thinks when he plays. It’s exactly what the San Antonio Spurs, who’ve built championships on brains, want to hear.
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Blair had 18 points and 13 rebounds in his usually spry and rambunctious fashion, and the Spurs took revenge on the slumping New York Knicks to win their eighth in a row, 101-92 on Friday night.
”I’m just not thinking,” said Blair, explaining his third double-double in his last four games. ”I was thinking too much at the beginning of this season.”
Tim Duncan had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Tony Parker added 21 points and 13 assists and the Spurs avenged one of only six losses this season. That was in New York earlier this month, when the Knicks wore out the NBA’s top team and put up a season-high 128 points on them.
New York sputtered in the rematch and tumbled to a fifth consecutive loss, despite moving Ronny Turiaf back into the starting lineup over Wilson Chandler.
The switch didn’t instantly pay off like coach Mike D’Antoni wanted. Moving Turiaf off the bench made the Knicks bigger, but it didn’t help New York against Duncan and the undersized, but indefatigable Blair who, at just 6-foot-7, has been San Antonio’s starting center all season.
”Got to win a game. That’s all it is,” Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire said. ”We’re fine, we’re fine. We’re in a slump, but we’ll be all right.”
Stoudemire’s night summed up the Knicks’ struggles. The starting lineup change moved Stoudemire back to his preferred position of power forward, but he scored just 18 points on a dismal 8-of-25 shooting and had his streak of 20-point games snapped at 26. He also had 15 rebounds.
Raymond Felton led the Knicks with 23 points.
San Antonio (37-6) won its 17th straight at home, but the Spurs won’t see much of the AT&T Center between now and March.
Having finished this perfect four-game homestand, San Antonio plays 12 of its next 13 on the road, largely thanks to its annual Rodeo Road Trip that begins Feb. 1 in Portland.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who admonished his defense after the Knicks ran them up and down the floor in New York on Jan. 4, was in a better mood this time after holding New York to just 38 percent from the field.
”The bigs tonight, especially Timmy and DeJuan, were fantastic with Amar’e,” Popovich said.
Turiaf had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup, but Chandler was ineffective off the bench. The Knicks’ second-leading scorer this season scored just six points.
It was the third double-double in four games for Blair, who scored 22 in a victory over Toronto on Wednesday. He was 8 of 12 from the floor, none bigger than his twisting, driving layup with 5:44 left that had an exasperated D’Antoni signaling timeout.
”I love playing pick-and-roll with him,” Parker said. ”He’s running to the basket and his timing is great.”
New York had shaved a once 14-point deficit down to four just moments earlier. It was as close as the Knicks would get, and it left New York tasked with trying to avoid matching its season-high losing streak on Saturday night against Oklahoma City.
D’Antoni hoped a shake-up to the starting lineup would pay immediate dividends.
He changed up the starting five, in part, because the Knicks had been 5-1 with the lineup of Turiaf, Stoudemire, Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields and Felton in the backcourt.
D’Antoni said he was just trying what worked before.
”We are playing like when we started coming out of the 3-8 start,” D’Antoni said. ”We play this hard and good things will happen.”
Manu Ginobili scored 16 points and Gary Neal added 10 off the bench for the Spurs.
NOTES: Spurs G George Hill was a late scratch due to a sprained right thumb. It left the Spurs without two of their top reserves, as F Matt Bonner missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. Popovich was at a loss to explain why Bonner isn’t recovering faster. … The Knicks lost for the eighth consecutive time in San Antonio, a skid that dates to 2003.