Spurs shut down Hornets early, collect easy win

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs learned their lesson
against New Orleans earlier this month -- don't let the Hornets keep
it close enough to steal a win.

Michael Finley led five Spurs in double figures with 18 points,
and San Antonio shut down New Orleans' offense after the opening
minutes in a 111-84 victory over the Hornets on Thursday night.

The Spurs, who lost to the Hornets on Dec. 18 in Oklahoma City
after fading in the final period, were 11-for-15 on 3s and their
lead grew to as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter before both
teams emptied their benches.

"It was an unspoken motivation for us against them tonight,"
said Finley, who scored a team-high 17 in that loss. "They beat us
pretty well at their place, and we just wanted to establish
ourselves early and often, and I think we did that."

Finley, still in the starting lineup even after Manu Ginobili's
return from a foot injury, made all four of his 3-point shots and
Beno Udrih made both of his attempts behind the arc.

New Orleans coach Byron Scott said he tried to tell his team to
be ready for the Spurs to come out hard and fast.

"I told them, 'They remember the last time they played us and
they're going to try to destroy us," said Scott. "I don't think
they believed me, but now I think they understand exactly what I
was trying to say."

The Hornets started the same way they finished the earlier win.
They made nine of their first 13 shots -- the last one a 3 by J.R.
Smith -- to take a 20-15 midway through the opening period.

New Orleans then missed 10 of their next 11 attempts as San
Antonio went on a 20-2 run to build a 35-22 lead after one. Tim
Duncan started the run with a turnaround jump hook, and Manu
Ginobili and Finley ended it with consecutive 3s.

"We played into the middle of the first quarter and then we
couldn't get any rhythm," said P.J. Brown. "I know our offense
wasn't good, but I think our defense wasn't there either."

After their early success, the Hornets shot 36 percent from the
floor (23-for-64) the rest of the way and committed 17 turnovers.

Duncan added 17 points for San Antonio, which shot 59 percent as
a team. Tony Parker had 16 and Ginobili 14.

Ginobili, who returned Tuesday after missing eight games with a
sprained right foot, said he's slowly playing himself back into
shape, though sometimes it's hard to hold back.

"I am not trying to rush anything right now," he said. "In
the first quarter I pushed my offensive (play). I just wanted to
see where I am at now."

David West was the only Hornets player in double figures with 18
points. Chris Paul, the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per
game, finished with six on 3-for-12 shooting.

New Orleans made its first three shots in the second, but the
Spurs extended their advantage with 3s by Brent Barry and Nick Van

The lead slipped to 49-41 on a layup by Desmond Mason with about
5 minutes left in the half, but layups by Rasho Nesterovic and
Ginobili started a 15-4 burst that made it 64-44 at the break.
Robert Horry added a dunk and a 3-pointer.

New Orleans finished the half by missing six of their last seven
shots and committing four turnovers.<
^Notes: @ Duncan had seven rebounds and is now 15 short of 7,500 for
his career. He's sixth among active players and second on the
all-time Spurs list behind David Robinson (10,497). ... The Spurs'
35 first-quarter points were just two fewer than they had at
halftime in the loss to New Orleans on Dec. 18. ... San Antonio is
14-1 at home this season, best in the NBA. ... The Spurs had 30
assists, one short of their season mark, and 12 steals. The Hornets
had 16 assists. ... New Orleans' starting backcourt of Paul, who
leads the league's rookies in scoring, and Smith combined to go
6-for-20 from the floor for 14 points.