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Parker, Spurs top Hawks, overcome early struggles

Feb 26, 2008 - 4:41 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Tony Parker scored 13 of his 15 points in the pivotal third quarter as the San Antonio Spurs pulled away for a 89-74 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night at the AT&T Center.

Tim Duncan had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs (38-17), who now sit alone atop the Southwest Division - one game ahead of the surprising New Orleans Hornets (37-18), who lost at the buzzer to the Washington Wizards on Monday.

San Antonio now has won six straight and 10 of its last 11. But despite this victory, it started off ugly for the Spurs, who found themselves in a 16-5 hole after an abysmal first quarter in which they shot just 1-of-17 from the field.

"In an 82-game season, you're going to have good and bad, and that was a bad," Duncan said. "We couldn't get a shot to go, we were turning the ball over. Luckily enough, there are two halves in the game."

The five points were the least the Spurs have ever scored in any quarter.

"We just wanted to set a record for worst offense and worst shooting," Parker said. "That was nice."

Kurt Thomas, playing his first minutes since arriving in a trade from Seattle, stopped the bleeding for the Spurs with a jumper a minute into the second quarter.

It was a shot the Spurs said mentally was worth more than two points.

"He knocked one out," Duncan said. "I think there was a little lid on the rim and, once he broke that, we were able to go from there."

Robert Horry followed with a 3-pointer on the next possession, which cut the deficit to 19-10.

Manu Ginobili, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, had 10 points and five rebounds for the Spurs, who outscored the Hawks, 25-21, in the second quarter en route to a 37-30 deficit at halftime.

But Atlanta opened the second half with two straight turnovers, and San Antonio used a 9-0 run to take a 39-37 lead. That's when Parker got hot, scoring five straight points to give the Spurs some breathing room.

"He's getting more and more aggressive each game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Parker. "He's definitely getting his rhythm back."

Joe Johnson scored 16 points and rookie Al Horford had 12 and 13 rebounds for the Hawks, which turned the ball over 22 times.

"The Spurs picked up the intensity in the third quarter, and we couldn't maintain," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "We cut it to six or seven, but it just wasn't enough."

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