Duncan, Spurs keep pace in tough WestApr 7, 2008 - 1:45 AM By Kasey Postlewaite PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan had 27 points and 11 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs forced the Portland Trail Blazers into dismal shooting in a 72-65 victory at the Rose Garden on Sunday.
Kurt Thomas grabbed 13 rebounds for the Spurs (53-24), who are 1 1/2 games back of the New Orleans Hornets (54-22) for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Hornets won earlier Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
San Antonio's staunch defensive effort spoiled the return of star guard Brandon Roy for Portland, which shot just 34 percent (25-of-73) from the field.
"It wasn't pretty, but we felt like we got it done," Duncan said. "Our shooting wasn't there (39 percent), but defensively I thought we were pretty solid. We were solid enough to get us over the hump."
The victory also allows the Spurs to forget about an embarrassing 90-64 loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, which ended its eight-game winning streak.
"Hey, we are the defending world champions, and everyone is gunning for us," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "The good thing about a loss like that is that it's just one loss, so we try to forget and move on."
They got back on track in this one despite the return of Roy, who missed the previous four games with a right groin and hip injury.
The second-year All-Star was rusty, going 0-of-4 in the first period, as his first points did not come until a layup at the 6:34 mark in the second period. Being guarded by defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen for most of the game, he still finished with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
"I felt good out there," Roy said. "Obviously, it would be a better feeling if we could get out with a win, but they are a good team and they still have a lot to play for. Hopefully, in a year's time, we will be in a situation like they are."
"I thought Brandon played pretty well once he got his rhythm," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "He didn't let Bruce Bowen get to him this time. He just ignored him and got some good looks."
Leading, 39-34, at halftime, the Spurs took control and scored six straight points to open up the third. Michael Finley's 20-foot jumper from the baseline made it 45-34 with 10:40 left.
Duncan scored 13 in the period and helped the visitors take a 61-52 lead into the fourth.
"I was trying to find holes (in Portland's zone defense) and creases in there," Duncan said. "I just tried to make them pay when I did."
"He's playing with the same energy - and his body looks quicker and more explosive - (than) maybe like three or four years ago," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan.
"His defense tonight was unbelievable in guarding someone that is a lot quicker than him (LaMarcus Aldridge) and more athletic. He did a super job tonight. Hopefully, that health and energy will continue into the playoffs."
The closest look the Blazers came to a comeback was when Roy's second free throw made it 66-60 with 5:27 left.
But Tony Parker answered back with two buckets - his second coming from the top of the key to make it 70-60 with 3:38 to go. Manu Ginobili's dunk at the 1:31 mark gave the Spurs a 72-63 advantage and put the game on ice.
"I was telling myself - 'finally,'" said Parker, who made only 4-of-16 shots. "Finally I made one. I had a lot go in and out tonight. I finally made those two at the end of the game. It gave us a good lead again to win the game."
Travis Outlaw scored 14 points and Aldridge had 12 and 11 rebounds for the Blazers (38-39), who have lost five straight and saw their record dip under .500 for the first time since they were 11-12.
"We had open looks, including myself, that we didn't knock down," Aldridge said. "It was frustrating at first. That made guys hesitant to not take shots."
Adding insult and injury, the Blazers lost big man Joel Przybilla for the remaining five games when he broke his right hand on the rim attempting to block Parker's layup.
"The situation with Joel is a sad one," McMillan said. "He has played so well and so hard for us all year, and he's become a big piece of our team. I know one of his goals was to play all 82 games."
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