Spurs 102, Bobcats 78

Gregg Popovich was back from a three-game absence due to illness

and feeling pretty good about the San Antonio Spurs’ latest

victory.

Tony Parker had 22 points and San Antonio never trailed in

beating the Charlotte Bobcats 102-78 on Wednesday night, extending

its winning streak to nine games.

The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, Parker had

his way with Charlotte’s backcourt. The Spurs All-Star guard had a

game-high seven assists and was 9 for 10 from the field.

”He did it again,” Popovich said. ”He put it upon himself and

he comes up with two big baskets down the stretch. He’s really been

special.”

Kawhi Leonard added 18 points, Danny Green had 17 and Tiago

Splitter 15 for San Antonio, which has won 17 straight at home.

Ramon Sessions came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points

for Charlotte, which has lost five of six. Kemba Walker (16 points)

and Ben Gordon (11) were the only other Bobcats in double

figures.

The Spurs’ perimeter players attacked the basket aggressively

with Tim Duncan (sore left knee) and DeJuan Blair (fluid in right

knee) missing the game, outscoring the Bobcats 48-24 in the

paint.

”Basically, just bring energy,” Leonard said of the team’s

strategy. ”We wanted all of our guards to crash the boards tonight

and get about five or more rebounds from our guards. We just wanted

to keep our energy and pace up in the game.”

San Antonio set up Charlotte inside by going 9 for 16 on 3s (56

percent) and shooting 55 percent from the field.

”We just tried to move the ball and take good shots,” Parker

said. ”Tonight, it worked for me.”

Leonard opened the scoring by hitting his first three shots,

including back-to-back 3s that put San Antonio up 11-4 with 8

minutes left in the first. Charlotte battled back over the next 4

minutes behind an aggressive defense, forcing two missed shots and

four turnovers in an 8-2 run.

The Bobcats pulled within 25-23 at the close of the first

quarter on Walker’s 19-foot jumper, but Manu Ginobili sparked the

Spurs in the second.

Ginobili had four points, two rebounds and an assist on

Leonard’s 3 in the opening 2 minutes of the second quarter as San

Antonio extended its lead to 32-23. Ginobili finished with nine

points, six assists and five rebounds in 21 minutes.

Parker had seven points and five assists in the third quarter as

San Antonio raised its home record to 21-2 this season.

”He’s really playing at an All-Star level for us,” Green said.

”We need that especially with the guys we have out. With Tim being

out, him and Manu have done a great job of carrying us, putting us

on their back.”

The Bobcats were able to cut the lead to 11 early in the fourth,

but could get no closer as the Spurs’ lead swelled to 24 in the

final quarter.

Charlotte was 30 for 73 overall from the field (41 percent)

while committing 23 turnovers.

”They took care of business,” Gordon said. ”In the second

half, they just put us away. They were real sharp with everything

they did. They capitalized on all our mistakes.”

Leading by double digits throughout the second half, the Spurs

spent much of the second half trying to set up the newest Spurs,

Australian Aron Baynes. After playing 42 seconds in his NBA debut

Friday at Dallas, Baynes had seven points and nine rebounds in 19

minutes against Charlotte. He was 3 for 7, missing a couple of

tip-in follows.

”Baynes was good,” Parker said. ”It’s not easy to come in the

middle of the season. We’re rolling and playing good and he came

out with a lot of energy; banging, rebounding and setting some good

picks.”

The Bobcats bench did outscore San Antonio’s 44-22.

Notes: Leonard was selected to play in the BBVA Rising Stars

Challenge on Feb. 15 during the NBA All-Star weekend in Houston. It

marks a return appearance for the second-year player to the game

that features many of the league’s top rookie and second-year

players. … Duncan has missed four straight games with an injury.

. Blair missed his 14th game of the season. … Bobcats P Byron

Mullens (ankle sprain) missed his 17th game. Mullens has played 27

games this season, starting 26. … Charlotte is 2-15 overall

against San Antonio. … The Bobcats are 0-2 with Michael

Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Adrien, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson and

Walker as their starting lineup. … Parker has led the Spurs in

scoring in six of their last nine games and in assists in nine

straight.