for this game

Duncan leads Spurs over cold-shooting Knicks

Nov 12, 2008 - 4:50 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- With an unfamiliar starting lineup, the San Antonio Spurs found their stride in the third quarter en route to their first home win of the season, a sluggish 92-80 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.

Tim Duncan had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the injury-depleted Spurs, whose role players finally came up big as they notched their 10th win in their last 11 games against the Knicks.

"It was our best defensive game of the year, and that's the reason for the win. Everybody participated tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Everybody played for each other."

Rookie George Hill, starting in place of the injured Tony Parker, gave San Antonio a much-needed spark in the third quarter, scoring seven of his 12 points. The Spurs also continued to play without star guard Manu Ginobili.

"I think it's just a case of getting your feet wet," Hill said. "Pop told me to be more aggressive at halftime, and that's what I tried to do."

As such, San Antonio got much-needed contributions from Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen, who both came off the bench to combine

for 27 points on 11-of-15 from the field.

The game was tied at 64-64 after Jamal Crawford nailed a long 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the third quarter, but the Spurs took control with a 14-0 run, including the first 11 points of the fourth.

"We gave them adrenaline and confidence," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We missed foul shots and layups, little stuff like that where we let them off the hook a little bit."

As part of the rally, Finley hit a 20-foot jumper that gave the Spurs a nine-point cushion, 73-64, with 9:49 left in the game. He hit a shot from the arc minutes later for a 78-64 lead.

New York did not get on the board in the final period until Zach Randolph flipped in a short shot to make it 78-66 with 6:57 remaining.

In the second quarter, Duncan - who kept his team in it with 15 first-half points - found an open Bowen for a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 35-34 lead with 2:11 remaining.

"When you have to guard Tim Duncan, it's tough. He has a way of making everyone around him better," Crawford said. "We had to double Tim, and they just have shooters for him to pass to."

Bowen, who came off the bench for the first time since the 2000-01 season, finished with a season-high 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

Bowen said he knew he wouldn't be starting, but that sulking wouldn't help.

"He knows I'm a competitor, and that I enjoy playing the game. I'd play all 48 minutes if I could," Bowen said. "But it's important to trust, because sometimes you don't always see the entire plan."

But the Knicks, who led by as many as six, responded when Crawford hit a 3-pointer for a 41-38 halftime lead.

Crawford, who scored 11 points in both the first and third quarters and nailed six 3-pointers, led all scorers with 28 points, while Randolph added 15 and 13 rebounds for New York.

"You've got to give the Spurs credit," D'Antoni said. "They played hard, and they were desperate."

San Antonio was pleased with its defensive performance against New York, which shot just 38 percent (30-of-79) from the field and had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Knicks were averaging 102.5 points per game.

"It was disheartening to see we weren't bringing that (defensive) mentality earlier in the season, because our defense really helps our offense get going," Bowen said. "That's always been our foundation."

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