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Nesterovic sparks Spurs in second half

1/22/2004

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Rasho Nesterovic followed San Antonio coach
Gregg Popovich's halftime orders perfectly.

Nesterovic scored 14 of his 16 points and blocked three shots in
the second half to help the Spurs beat New Jersey 99-76 on
Wednesday night in a rematch of the NBA Finals.

"We had a special message for him at halftime," Popovich said.
"He came out in the second half and played more physical, more
aggressive. He played like it mattered instead of going through the
motions."

The Spurs, who built a small cushion after trailing most of the
first half, outscored New Jersey 28-12 in the fourth in the Nets'
first appearance at the SBC Center since they lost the decisive
sixth game of the championship series in June.

The loss was New Jersey's fourth in a row.

"It happens in this league -- got to get out and cut our
mistakes," said Nets forward Kenyon Martin, whose team shot only
11-for-39 (28.2 percent) in the second half. "We got ourselves out
of it before, we'll get ourselves out of it again."

New Jersey coach Byron Scott had little to say about the news
Wednesday that the team's owners have agreed to sell club to a
group that wants to move it to Brooklyn.

"That's fantastic," he said. "But right now I've got other
things on my mind than who's taking over this team as far as
ownership is concerned."

Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 21 points and 17 rebounds, and
Hedo Turkoglu had a season-high 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

Bruce Bowen added 15 for the Spurs, who made 21 of their 38
shots in the second half, and Tony Parker had 11.

Parker said he's also been hearing from Popovich, who said last
week that his team's erratic play this month is a result of him not
demanding enough from the players.

"Pop just got after me to get me going, and it works," he
said. "That's how our relationship is."

Nesterovic scored five of his points on free throws late in the
game, when the Nets intentionally fouled the Spurs on four
successive possessions. San Antonio, which has struggled from the
line all season, made six of the eight fouls shots and the fouling
stopped.

San Antonio had 52 points in the paint, while its defense
allowed New Jersey only 18 points inside.

The Nets came out shooting from the outside from the start, and
in the first half, it worked for them.

Kerry Kittles set his season high with 24 points in the half on
10-for-13 shooting, including four 3-pointers. But Bowen tightened
his defense on Kittles after the break, limiting him to six points
in the final two periods.

"It always feels good to have the hot hand like that," said
Kittles of his first-half output. "They made some adjustments in
the second half ... You can't expect to get open looks like that
against a good defensive team like the Spurs."

Jason Kidd had 21 points for the Nets, who scored only 29 points
in the second half.

A 15-4 run by the Spurs late in the opening period gave them an
18-12 lead. Kittles then made the first of his four 3-pointers of
the half and the Nets pulled to 20-19 after one.

Kittles made three of New Jersey's four baskets during a 9-2
burst that put the Nets up, 28-22, with 10:20 left in the half.

Bowen's 13-foot baseline jumper evened the score at 28 about two
minutes later, but a 3-pointer by Kidd broke the tie at 7:29 and
New Jersey led until the break.

In the third, Turkoglu made a pair of 3-pointers and Nesterovic
had a dunk and a 16-footer as the Spurs got their lead to 69-60
late in the period.

Game notes
Malik Rose, who twisted his left ankle Monday night in a
loss in Detroit, was not in uniform for the Spurs. ... San Antonio
is 11-1 at home against Eastern Conference teams this season. The
only loss came to Philadelphia on Jan. 3 . ... The Nets lost in
Dallas, 106-93, on Tuesday night. ... Kittles' previous high for
the season was 23 against Indiana on Nov. 6.