<
>

Duncan scores 19 in game he was expected to miss

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tim Duncan got over ankle injury and made a
surprise start for the San Antonio Spurs.

Vince Carter said he was also injured, and his slow start along
with that of his New Jersey teammates helped the Spurs beat the
Nets 90-74 Tuesday night.

Duncan, urged by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to skip the
game after he sprained his right ankle two days earlier, had 19
points and eight rebounds.

"I felt pretty good before the game, so I thought I'd give it a
shot," said Duncan, who was helped off during the Spurs' win
against Utah on Sunday. "(Not playing) is the way (Popovich)
wanted to go -- just for precaution. But I worked out a little this
morning and came out and shot before the game.

"It felt good throughout the game ... not as mobile as I
usually am."

Reserve guard Devin Brown had a game-high 22 points for San
Antonio.

The Nets struggled early, hitting just 4 of their first 25
shots. Carter, who had a season-high 43 points against the Spurs on
Feb. 11, missed his first seven shots and finished with 13 points
on 4-for-18 shooting. It ended his streak of 18 games with at least
20 points.

Carter, 0-for-4 on 3-pointers, complained after the game that he
suffered an injury to the knuckle of his index finger on his
shooting hand and had trouble gripping the ball.

"I couldn't hold on to you right now," Carter said. "But
that's no excuse."

Jason Kidd, who had 14 points and nine assists for the Nets,
said Carter told him he hurt the knuckle sometime in the first
half.

"He hit it, he's not exactly sure when he did it," Kidd said.
"Hopefully he'll have it X-rayed and it's not bad. He was holding
it a little."

Nenad Krstic was the only New Jersey player who didn't have any
trouble with his shots, hitting 8-of-10 from the floor for a
team-high 19 points.

New Jersey trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half,
before turning it around with 9-of-18 shooting from the floor to
start the second half. The Nets shot 32 percent (26-for-81) for the
game.

New Jersey cut the Spurs' lead to 60-54 on Rodney Buford's
jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 2:20 left in the
third quarter.

However, the Spurs closed the period with an 8-4 run and
extended their lead to as many as 19 points in the fourth.

Duncan's return to the San Antonio lineup comes in time for a
matchup between the NBA's top two teams, as the Spurs (47-13) visit
the Phoenix Suns (46-14) on Wednesday.

"With the back-to-back (games against New Jersey and Phoenix),
I didn't want him to play," Popovich said of Duncan. "But he said
he felt fine. He knows his body, and I trust him."

Game notes
New Jersey's loss dropped the Eastern Conference to 0-13 at
the SBC Center this season. The Spurs have not lost a home game
against an East team since a 98-96 defeat to New Orleans on Jan.
24, 2004. ... San Antonio's Tony Massenburg was ejected from the
game after throwing an elbow at the Nets' Jason Collins and tossing
the ball in the direction of an official. Collins stayed in the
game but fouled out a minute later. ... The Spurs activated reserve
guard Mike Wilks after he spent five games on the injured list
because of left patella tendinitis.