for this game

Parker guides Spurs over Hawks

Nov 21, 2007 - 3:49 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - The San Antonio Spurs showed the young Atlanta Hawks exactly what it takes to play championship-caliber basketball.

Tony Parker scored a season-high 31 points and Manu Ginobili added 19 to lead the defending champion Spurs to a 95-83 win over the Hawks on Tuesday.

Behind 21 points from Parker, San Antonio jumped out to a 61-44 halftime lead and never let the Hawks get margin under double digits.

Parker dominated the second quarter, tallying 17 of his 31 points against an undermanned Hawks team which was missing four of its five point guards.

The 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, who finished a blistering 7-for-9 from the field in the quarter, scored at will, in the post or on the perimeter against a lethargic Atlanta defense.

"I was just trying to be aggressive," Parker said. "I didn't shoot well the last two games. I was just trying to get a rhythm."

"He did what he does well - get in the paint and make plays," Atlanta guard Joe Johnson said. "He had a bunch of layups. He was real tough."

When the 25-year old Frenchman wasn't finding the hoop, he was dishing the ball with authority, recording a team-high nine assists, including a pretty fast-break pass to Ginobili with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter to give the Spurs a 72-52 lead.

"He's the MVP of the playoffs last year," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "He's a solid point guard. He had his way tonight. We had no answer."

"He got in a little streak in the second quarter, getting to the rim every time and finishing," Ginobili said. "We knew he was capable of doing that."

San Antonio has been the closest team the NBA has had to royalty this side of the millennium, making the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons and winning the NBA title in three of them.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has been the poster child for futility, failing to make the playoffs since the 1998-1999 campaign - the longest stretch of futility in the league.

It didn't take long for the Spurs to impose their will on the Hawks.

San Antonio roared out to a 29-17 lead with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter behind seven points from two-time MVP Tim Duncan before extending the lead to as many as 18 in the second quarter.

"This team and Boston, by far, were the toughest teams we've played," Hawks rookie forward Al Horford said. "They came out and played solid on defense and executed on offense. That's the reason why they are the world champions."

With the Spurs staked to a large second-quarter lead, Atlanta public address announcer Ryan Cameron asked the crowd to waive the night's free giveaway: spirit flags emblazoned with a Hawks logo.

Quite fittingly, the flags were predominately white - the military color of surrender.

Duncan added 13 points, seven rebounds and dished six assists and Francisco Elson and Michael Finley had 10 points each for San Antonio, which never trailed and led by as many as 24 in the second half.

Atlanta used a 16-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to cut the lead to 85-75 on Joe Johnson's 10-foot turnaround jumper with 6:43 remaining against San Antonio's second unit, but was unable to get the game under double digits.

The Spurs, who won 58 games last season, made sure that Atlanta did not duplicate the success they had here against the 60-win Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards, something Duncan and his teammates were well aware of.

"We knew that Atlanta had beaten some good teams here," Duncan said. "We had to respect that. The way you do that is to come in and give a good effort and not let them outwork you."

The frugal Spurs defense, which allowed the second fewest points per game at 89.9 coming into this one, held Atlanta to just 42.3 percent (33-for-78) from the field, forced 10 turnovers, and made the Hawks look more like team that has failed to make the playoffs since Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office than the club that won seven of eight games in the preseason.

"Everyone should look at the way they defend," Horford said. "There's a reason they won last year. The running style may look good, but defense wins championships."

One of the few bright spots for Atlanta was the play of forward Josh Smith, who passed the legendary Dominique Wilkins for fifth place on the Hawks all-time blocks list with 590. Smith, who tallied a career-high 38 points in Atlanta's loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, finished with 11 points, two blocks and five rebounds.

Johnson led the Hawks with 20 points and Marvin Williams added 16 for Atlanta, which has dropped four of its last five games.

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