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Duncan's hustle, late 3-pointer too much for Hornets

3/31/2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- After reaching 30 points for the second
consecutive night, Tim Duncan had one more big play.

Having saved a possession by diving for a loose ball and calling
timeout, Duncan hit a 3-pointer off an inbounds play with 32
seconds left as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the New Orleans
Hornets 92-90 Sunday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

''It was kind of a have-to-take shot. I was lucky enough to make
it,'' Duncan said. ''They kind of dropped off the inbounder and
fronted the post, so I kind of stepped out and it turned into what
it was.''

Adding to the drama was Duncan going down briefly in the fourth
quarter after apparently twisting his right ankle, which he
sprained earlier in the season.

''I was a little worried when he went down,'' coach Gregg
Popovich said. ''I told him we didn't want any heroes and if he
couldn't play, he couldn't play. He looked at me like I was crazy
so we left him in the game and thank goodness we did.''

Duncan's 33 points and 12 rebounds came one night after he
scored 30 points in 32 minutes in a blowout victory over the Utah
Jazz.

The 3-pointer was his sixth of the season. Duncan made 10
3-pointers in his first five NBA seasons -- seven of them during the
2000-01 season.

''He usually gets stronger as the season goes along, so it's not
surprising that he's playing his best basketball at this particular
time,'' said Malik Rose, who added 12 points off the bench. ''His
range is expanding. He's always been able to hit the 15- to
17-footer consistently. It's just that lately he's gone out there a
little more because he's been taking such a beating inside. It just
shows his versatility.''

Duncan's late 3 gave San Antonio a 91-86 lead after P.J. Brown
missed a shot he normally makes -- an open 14-footer -- that could
have tied the game.

New Orleans had the momentum up to that point, having erased an
84-75 deficit with an 11-2 run to tie the game at 86 with 2:15
left.

Stephen Jackson had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs,
while Tony Parker had 11 points and seven assists. Rose's output
included seven consecutive points in the fourth quarter -- five of them
on free throws -- as San Antonio took a nine-point lead, its largest
of the game, with 5:55 left.

San Antonio remained two games behind Midwest Division-leading
Dallas, while New Orleans fell 2½ games behind Indiana for the
fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Jamal Mashburn led New Orleans with 24 points, while Baron Davis
added 18, Jamaal Magloire 14 and Brown 13.

Mashburn hit a 3-pointer, a finger roll off a spinning drive and
a tough shot high off the glass as the Hornets rallied to tie the
game. Davis converted a behind-the-back dribble on a spin move
through the lane for a layup during New Orleans' final push.

''We got aggressive offensively and that got us back in the
game, but it's a learning experience for us,'' Hornets coach Paul
Silas said. ''They have won a championship, we haven't. If we learn
from this we'll be fine.''

San Antonio was able to push its lead as high as seven in the
third quarter after New Orleans scored on only two of its first 11
possessions.

Duncan made the score 60-53 when he hit a short bank shot as he
was fouled and converted the free throw. With New Orleans later
looking to cut the lead to three, Duncan stuffed Mashburn inside,
forcing a jump ball, which Duncan won before following his own miss
with a dunk on the other end, making the score 64-57.

New Orleans' bench was able to help tighten the game, however.
Kenny Anderson started a 6-0 run when Courtney Alexander found him
on a baseline cut. Anderson then made a pair of free throws before
Robert Traylor backed into the lane and hit a short turnaround,
cutting the Spurs' lead to 66-65 heading into the fourth quarter.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half as the
lead changed hands 19 times, with neither team leading by more than
four points.

Game notes
Hornets guard David Wesley, the team's second-leading
scorer, missed his sixth consecutive game with a bruised left foot.
Wesley had missed just 16 games in his previous five seasons. New
Orleans is 3-3 without Wesley. ... Duncan's scoring and rebounding
totals gave him 53 double-doubles. He has 27 double-doubles in his
last 31 games. ... San Antonio went 6-0 on the road in March and
has won 16 of 19 games overall.