Nesterovic returned to the starting lineup the same day Duncan
went out with a sprained ankle, giving the Spurs a big lift with 15
points and eight rebounds in San Antonio's 104-85 victory over the
Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night.
When Duncan missed six straight games last season, Nesterovic
reached double figures in points and rebounds every night.
"He did a good job tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
"If he could average a double-double like he did while Tim was out
last year, that would be great for us."
Duncan missed his first game of the season and won't play
Wednesday night in Washington. Nesterovic was coming off his own
ankle injury that sidelined him for six games.
Needing a big body, the Spurs activated him before the start of
the game, and Nesterovic opened it by making his first seven shots.
"After six games sitting on the bench, you get really bored,"
Nesterovic said. "My shots were really falling in and it got us
off to a good start."
He finished 7-of-9 from the floor against an undermanned
Charlotte team that struggled to defend him the entire 22 minutes
"Rasho was on fire for us," said Tony Parker, who had 20
points. "He played very good for us, especially early."
San Antonio started Tony Massenburg in place of Duncan, and he
hardly filled the All-Star's shoes. Massenburg finished with one
point, going 0-for-4 with three rebounds.
But it didn't matter against the Bobcats, who narrowly missed
their worst defeat of the season.
"We caught them on a day where everything was clicking," said
Melvin Ely, who finished with 12 points. "They did what they were
supposed to do. That's what great teams do, especially without
Jason Kapono led Charlotte with 17 points off the bench. Primoz
Brezec had 14 as the Bobcats fell behind early and almost had their
worst loss of the season. Trailing by 27 in the second half -- and
threatening to supplant their 113-90 defeat at Miami on Jan. 1 --
the Bobcats only made it respectable when the Spurs benched the
majority of their starters.
Short on bodies -- star rookie Emeka Okafor is on the injured
list, center Jamal Sampson was waived prior to the game and two
others didn't dress because of injuries, the Bobcats had just eight
players after guard Keith Bogans left with an ankle sprain near the
end of the first half.
"That's about as good as we are with that group," coach Bernie
Bickerstaff said. "Even though Tim Duncan was missing, that's
still a 50-win basketball team."
San Antonio built a 52-34 halftime lead behind 51 percent
shooting, while Charlotte struggled offensively in making just 13
of 44 shots.
The Spurs continued to roll in the second half, stretching their
lead to 76-49 on Brent Barry's 3-pointer late in the third quarter
before they benched the bulk of their starters.
Although the Bobcats were able to chip away at the deficit, they
were hardly inspiring and few fans stayed around to see them trim
it to 83-69. The front row, usually packed with Charlotte-area
celebrities, had 13 consecutive empty seats glaringly empty at
midcourt for most of the fourth quarter.
To make room for Nesterovic on the roster, the Spurs placed
guard Mike Wilks on the injured list with tendinitis. ... Okafor is
due to come off the injured list after Wednesday night's game in
Indiana, but the Bobcats aren't sure his sprained ankle will be
healed enough for him to play. ... Carolina Panthers coach John Fox
made his first appearance at a Bobcats game this season, sitting
courtside next to NASCAR star Jeff Gordon.