Spurs continue to prove their worth on the road


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Whenever times are tough, the San Antonio Spurs can always find refuge in the most unlikeliest of places away from the SBC Center.

"We play better on the road than at home," said Tony Parker of the Spurs' league-best 27-14 road record in the regular season. "I don't know why."

Disappointed by another defeat that exposed their poor free-throw shooting and careless ball handling in Friday's 87-85 loss, the Spurs not surprisingly made themselves at home at Continental Airlines Arena.

Parker, the second-year point guard, showed them how.

Parker scored 26 points, including 11 in the final period, as the Spurs regained homecourt advantage with an 84-79 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday night.

"My shot was going down in the second half," said Parker, who shot 9-of-21, which, on this night, was George Gervin-like. "I finally found a rhythm."

Down 57-54 going into the fourth quarter, the Spurs reeled off a 19-5 run to take a 73-62 lead with 5:21 remaining. Parker buried two 3-pointers during the game-turning spurt, sinking his second from the top of the key for a seemingly comfortable nine-point bulge.

The Nets didn't panic and rallied behind their leader, Jason Kidd, whose driving dish to Aaron Williams cut the deficit to 77-75 with 1:43 to play. New Jersey never got the chance to tie the game, however, as Manu Ginobili came up with two key plays in the final minutes.

First, the rookie guard came up with a crucial defensive stop to keep the Spurs ahead by three, stripping the ball from Lucious Harris with 1:18 left. Ginobili then sank a baseline runner for an 80-75 cushion after the possession was prolonged by Tim Duncan, who sneaked past Martin to grab the offensive rebound on the latter of Parker's two missed free throws.

"That right there was probably the difference," Nets coach Byron Scott said.

Duncan had 21 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, but more importantly, the league MVP made his free throws, sinking nine of 12 after missing 3 of 10 on Friday.

Kenyon Martin led the Nets with 23 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Kerry Kittles had 21 points and Jason Kidd managed just 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting to go with 11 assists.

The series takes two days off before resuming Wednesday with Game 4 at Continental Airlines Arena.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was eager to see how his team would react to the "hurt" suffered their Game 2 loss. Everyone watching the game felt the pain of Popovich and Scott in the first half as the coaches watched their teams brick their way to tying the lowest scoring half in NBA playoff history.

Any offense was going to come from the outside as the Nets continued its double-teaming of Duncan to force the MVP to pass the ball out and the Spurs brought New Jersey's running game to a complete stop with a zone defense that kept Kidd out of the paint.

Led by Duncan's 11 points, San Antonio shot 38.2 percent (13 of 34), while New Jersey, led by Martin's 12 points, managed just 37.1 percent (31 of 35) in trailing 33-30 at halftime.