for this game

Spurs' balanced attack too much for Hornets

Feb 1, 2009 - 6:22 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- As much as the New Orleans Hornets want to claim Southwest Division supremacy for good, the San Antonio Spurs won't give it up so easily.

The Spurs finished off a torrid month of January in appropriately decisive fashion on Saturday night, running away from the Hornets with an explosive offensive effort en route to a 106-93 triumph.

After another in a long line of sluggish early-season starts that brought out the annual divinations of the team's impending doom, the Spurs have stormed back near the top of the NBA's food chain, and the Hornets were the latest victim.

"Obviously it was a good win for us," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought we competed for 48 minutes, and it got us through."

One of the league's rising powers on the backs of All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, the Hornets took the Spurs to seven games in last year's second-round series before being ousted.

In this meeting, the Spurs put together one of their finest performances of the season as they finished January at a stellar 12-3. Both teams out firing, particularly in the second half, as they went back-and-forth in a whirlwind four-minute stretch to open the third quarter.

"I thought just letting them go to the basket, giving up too many easy baskets, got them going pretty good offensively in the game, as it was a trend that continued throughout the game," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said.

By that point, however, San Antonio held an 11-point edge, as Tony Parker matched Paul point-for-point during the third-quarter flurry.

"I thought Tony and Chris were both great tonight," Popovich said. "They went at each other, Tony scored, Chris scored and they both put on a (heck) of a performance."

The Spurs really took control later in the period. Ginobili's three-point play kicked off a 10-4 run that extended the lead to 78-63.

"(The Spurs) are one of the most underrated teams in transition in the league," Scott said. "A lot of people don't give them credit for being a running team, but they do get up and down the court pretty well."

The Spurs seemed to have it in the bag but had to withstand Paul's heroics down the stretch. The All-NBA point guard scored eight crucial points over the final 1:53 of the third, including back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Hornets back to within single digits.

"We had a very good game, especially offensively," Ginobili said. "Defensively, it was just hard to contain Chris Paul. He was unbelievable today. Sometimes against a great player you have to make decisions. We didn't want him to get to the rim as much and he started making threes. We contained the rest pretty well."

That trend continued in the final session, as Paul connected twice more from the arc to cut the deficit to 86-79. But Michael Finley answered with a pair of 16-footers, Parker and Tim Duncan got in on the act with buckets of their own and Matt Bonner delivered the death blow with a 3-pointer at the 6:03 mark to make it a 97-83 game.

"The Spurs just know how to play great defense," Paul said. "I tried to be aggressive and, after ball screens, they left me open and I thought that I might as well shoot the basketball because I was hitting. But in the fourth quarter, we had lots of open shots, but it seemed as if every run and every call just didn't go our way."

Parker scored 25 points on 12-of-18 shooting for the Spurs, while Ginobili added 22 and Finley scored 20 and hit 4-of-5 from the arc.

Paul delivered a season-high 38 points, going 15-of-22 from the field and 5-of-6 from the arc, but got little help from the rest of his offense. The reigning MVP runner-up managed an uncharacteristic four assists.

"Everyone contributed," Popovich said. "I thought they would be tired tonight after getting back so late the other day. It always hits you the day after."