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Duncan leads Spurs to easy win over Rockets

Mar 4, 2007 - 6:39 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan didn't need Manu Ginobili this time around.

Despite just five points from Ginobili, Duncan scored 26 as the San Antonio Spurs routed the Houston Rockets, 97-74, en route to their season-high eighth straight win.

Francisco Elson collected 13 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, who played without All-Star Tony Parker. The point guard sat out with a hip flexor suffered in Friday's 98-74 win over Orlando.

"Tony's a big part of what we do," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Jacque Vaughn and Beno Udrih filled in (for Parker) quite nicely, did a good job defensively, got us involved in what we wanted to do. We had a lot of guys who played well tonight."

Ginobili took over Friday;s game, scoring 31 points off the bench and knocking down six 3-pointers. One night later, he could not find the range, shooting just 1-of-8 from the field and looking uncomfortable with his shot all night.

However, the star guard was just happy his team came out victorious.

"We played great, especially defensively," Ginobili said. "Vaughn had a great game. He really set the tone for us, getting a lot of loose balls. They have to close up on (Duncan) and the court opens up for him. When he starts making those shots it opens the court for him and everyone."

Vaughn scored eight points on 4-of-4 shooting and dished out six assists in 27 minutes.

"I try to do the same things I've been called on to do," Vaughn said. "That has kept me in the league for a long time. Little things like that become contagious. I've been in this league long enough to understand my role. To put added pressure on myself would have been a mistake."

But Duncan shouldered the offensive load, establishing his low-post presence by shooting 10-of-14 from the floor in just 27 minutes. The All-Star forward dominated a host of Rockets' defenders, including centers Dikembe Mutombo and Jake Tsakalidis and forwards Chuck Hayes, Juwan Howard and Shane Battier.

"My shot felt good the entire night," Duncan said. "They were playing off me and that was the shot that was there. I honestly wasn't even paying attention to the change of matchups (on me)."

It started early for Duncan, who hit his first five shots en route to 15 first-quarter points. With the contest in hand, he went to the bench with 2:23 left in the third quarter and did not play in the final period.

"Tim's a tough matchup for everybody," Popovich said. "It would have been a shame if we didn't take advantage of the situation. The last couple of weeks he's definitely been looking for his shot, and not just be a post man and worry about swinging the ball. If he's open, he's going ahead and shooting in rhythm. He's got to do that."

Superstar Tracy McGrady scored 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting for the Rockets, who shot just 39 percent (25-of-65) and committed 18 turnovers.

"For us to turn the ball over 10 times in the first quarter, that just says it all right there," McGrady said. "Duncan got off to a great start to get those guys going and they never looked back. That is a team that is playing poised and with a great deal of intensity and great execution. That's a level of basketball we're trying to get to and be consistent at."

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy praised the competition.

"The difference was we got it put to us good by a championship-caliber team playing championship-caliber basketball with poise and intensity," Van Gundy said. "We really only had two guys (tonight). I thought Battier and McGrady played well. We were throwing the ball all over the gym, that was our biggest problem."

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