for this game

Duncan's Spurs edge Bobcats late

Jan 19, 2009 - 10:47 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Gregg Popovich has been drilling his San Antonio Spurs on the importance of defense, and they seem to be getting their swagger back.

Tim Duncan scored 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists and also had a key block late to help the Spurs to an 86-84 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday.

Tony Parker added 13 points and dished out 10 assists for the Spurs, who have won eight of their nine meetings with Charlotte.

Raja Bell netted a season-high 25 points for Charlotte, which had its season high, three-game winning streak snapped. The Bobcats' reserves were outscored, 36-9, by San Antonio's subs.

But the difference once again for the Spurs was defense. San Antonio has held its last two opponents under 90 points, bouncing back from a 22-point loss to Philadelphia on Friday.

"Defense has been a big focus and maybe getting our butts kicked in Philadelphia made them realize that we did (stink) on defense," Popovich said. "That has to be our focus because we are going nowhere without defense. We aren't going to outscore anybody."

"We definitely improved on defense," said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who hit two key 3-pointers late. "It was especially hard playing back-to-back with a 2 p.m. game. When they started playing aggressive in the third quarter, it was hard for us. Then we started playing smarter and pulled it out."

Charlotte shot just 36 percent (22-of-80) but had the Spurs on the ropes after outscoring them, 27-17, in the third quarter.

The Bobcats led for most of the final period before San Antonio took an 83-78 lead with 2:53 left when Ginobili capped a 14-6 run with his second consecutive 3-pointer.

Moments later, Bell hit a pair of free throws to pull the Bobcats to within 86-84 with 1:04 to play. Charlotte had a chance to tie the game, but Raymond Felton missed a step-back 15-footer with 30 seconds to play.

Duncan's layup was blocked by Emeka Okafor on the other end and Charlotte had another chance to tie it.

Felton drove the lane but had his floater swatted by Duncan. Boris Diaw grabbed the loose ball with one second left and launched an uncontested 3-pointer that was short at the buzzer.

"We are thrilled to get a win against a team that really played great in the second half," Popovich said. "Their aggressiveness really got to us and they did a great job defensively in the third quarter. It took a while for us to get our aggressiveness back in the fourth.

"Making stops in the fourth quarter is important to us, and I thought we did a great job with that last possession."

Diaw had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Bobcats.

"You kind of look at it as a positive for how far this team has come," said Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, who had nine points and six rebounds.

"A couple of years ago, this game would have been a blowout for them after the first half. That third quarter just showed improvement in the team and the way we fight now."