Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 20 News List

PLAYOFFS: Defending champs swat down the Hornets

AFP , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili scored 31 points apiece on Thursday as the San Antonio Spurs finally posted a victory over New Orleans in their NBA playoff series.

The Spurs, the reigning NBA champions, rebounded from two defeats in New Orleans to beat the Hornets 110-99 and narrow the gap in their best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series to 2-1.

“Today for us it was a game seven,” Ginobili said. “We knew that if we didn’t win today it was almost over. We played with more passion, more edge. That was the difference today.”

Tim Duncan recorded 16 points and 13 rebounds and Bruce Bowen chipped in 12 for the defending champions, who can knot the series at 2-2 with a win at home in game four tomorrow.

“We knew coming in here these two games were going to be tough. They are the champions,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “They aren’t just going to lay down.”

The Spurs, who had been outscored 65-35 over the previous two third quarters combined, held a 29-22 edge in this one as they built an 83-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We let it slip away in the third quarter,” Scott said. “We had a golden opportunity to get to the free throw line and be more aggressive and we settled for the jump shots, whereas they were really, really getting it to the basket. Between Ginobili and Parker, their 62 points, they might have had 40 in the paint by themselves. They were just kind of breaking us down.”

“I thought our play overall was more aggressive, more physical than it was the first two games,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought they really won that contest, that physicality part that’s always there in the playoffs. I thought they took it to us in the first two games in that regard.”

Ginobili, given the starting nod in a shakeup by Popovich, took over in the fourth.

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year scored nine points, including a four-point play, in the first five minutes of the fourth and Bowen’s three-pointer from the corner gave the Spurs a 101-88 edge with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left.

“We kind of needed to make some big shots,” Ginobili said. “First two games, every time we got close we missed a couple of big shots and they made them. Today was our turn. We made a couple of big threes. Bruce hit a couple in the corner at a key moment and that kept us going. It’s very important for your head.”

Point guard Chris Paul did all he could to keep the Hornets in it, with 35 points and nine assists.

And the Hornets appeared to be picking up right where they left off when they raced to an 8-0 lead.

Paul’s 14 first-quarter points helped New Orleans to a 23-21 lead after the opening period, in which Parker led the Spurs with 10 points.

Bowen and Michael Finley hit back-to-back three-pointers from the corner to give San Antonio a 41-37 lead midway through the second quarter.

New Orleans answered with eight straight points before Ginobili tied the game at 45-45 with a three pointer.

Ginobili finished the first half with 16 points, including a last-second jumper.

“Huge,” Ginobili said of the basket to end the half. “Every time, end of quarters it’s very important and they are really good at that. After they made those two threes in a row, it kind of hurt us. It was very important to go back to the locker room only two points down.”

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