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Duncan, Barry help Spurs edge Hornets

Mar 29, 2007 - 5:06 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- An unlikely source helped the San Antonio Spurs continue their winning ways.

All-Star Tim Duncan scored 31 points and Brent Barry had 12 of his 15 in the fourth quarter as the Spurs rallied to beat the New Orleans Hornets, 92-88, for their fifth straight win.

Manu Ginobili had 12 points and seven assists and fellow reserve Michael Finley added 13 points and a key steal for San Antonio (51-20), which moved to within 2 1/2 games of idle Phoenix (53-17) for the second-best record in the Western Conference.

After Chris Paul made two free throws to give the Hornets an 88-87 lead with 1:42 remaining, the 2006 Rookie of the Year made a steal with 47 seconds left. However, Finley picked off a pass from Paul in the paint to give the Spurs possession with 25 ticks to play.

"Well, they were running a play that was giving them success, a little pick-and-roll," Finley said. "We changed up our defensive philosophy. I was on the back line and I was just reading his eyes. I was fortunate enough to pick off the pass."

"We're up one with 20-something seconds left and you have the ball, and you think you have the best opportunity to win the game," Paul said. "But I definitely made a bad pass, and they capitalized on it by hitting a three."

Finley raced up the court, stopped behind the 3-point line before making a chest pass to Barry, who drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter and fifth overall to put San Antonio up, 90-88, with 17 seconds remaining.

"Coach said to keep going on the play," Finley said. "I was trying to look for a shot for myself. I saw Manu on a backcut, and he took Brent's man with him, opening up a shot Brent. He just knocked down another big shot for us."

"It was a great feed by Mike," Barry added. "Mike held on to the ball long enough to find me, and I was happy to step back up and have another shot at it because I had missed the one before. This one went it and proved to be enough of the difference for us."

After Hornets swingman Rasual Butler missed a jumper from the top of the key and teammate David West missed a shot from right corner, reserve guard Jacque Vaughn nailed two shots from the charity stripe to seal the win for the Spurs, who have won seven straight against the Hornets.

Duncan had his fourth 30-plus point game of the season, including 27 through the first three periods.

"Tim was a real horse," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Not just down low as the offense is concerned, but his boards and his blocked shots. He plugged up the middle. He was fantastic. He got beat up pretty good, but he kept fighting."

"You know you gotta deal with Duncan," West said. "Once he gets going, he's so difficult to deal with because he's got moves every way on the box. We doubled him and they had guys who could knock down the open shot."

San Antonio trailed, 75-66, entering the final quarter.

"I thought we were just looking to play not to lose the game instead of playing to win it," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "And the Spurs are a championship team, so when they get more agressive on the defensive end, it's like two boxers.

"You can't back down. You have to get more aggressive offensively, and I don't think we did."

Paul scored 20 points and handed out nine assists and West added 16 and seven boards for the Hornets, who fell three games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 12 rebounds and Butler added 12 points - all in the second quarter - for the Hornets, who outshot the Spurs 47 percent (31-of-66) to 44 percent (34-of-78).

"I felt like we played hard," Chandler said. "We just made too many mental mistakes that cost us, and great teams capitalize on every little mistake you make."

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