Duncan directs Spurs past offensively challenged Hornets

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A solid defensive performance by the San
Antonio Spurs earned Tim Duncan some extra rest for his sore foot.

Duncan scored 17 points and the Spurs handed New Orleans its
worst defeat in Oklahoma City with a 84-68 win over the Hornets on
Wednesday night.

The Hornets' sputtering offense set a season low in scoring for
the second straight game and gave the standing-room only crowd of
19,289 little to cheer about.

"It was a surprising night. Defensively, we were solid,"
Duncan said. "We were very good. They were driving and jumping up
into us a whole lot. I thought we did a great job of keeping them
back and not giving them fouls."

Tony Parker had 14 points and Nick Van Exel added 13, including
a season-high four 3-pointers, as the Spurs pulled away to a
15-point first-half lead.

Chris Paul scored the final six points of the half to get the
Hornets back within 42-32, but San Antonio pulled away again in the
second half.

Parker's steal was the spark to an 11-2 run for the Spurs that
put the game away in the third quarter. It led to a fast break that
resulted in a technical foul shot for Brent Barry and two free
throws by Duncan. By the time Nazr Mohammed hit two free throws
with 1:34 left in the third quarter, the Spurs were up 62-40.

The lead reached 80-54 before reserves helped the Hornets avoid
a series of disappointing franchise lows.

Duncan played only 24½ minutes in San Antonio's 104-76 win at
Charlotte a night earlier and was on the floor for 32 minutes
against the Hornets. With the game in hand, he was able to rest the
final 5:30.

"I think it's a great situation for everyone, especially
myself," said Duncan, who's averaging a team-high 35.7 minutes.
"I felt good tonight. I felt like I was moving pretty well and not
in a lot of pain, so it was good."

David West and Rasual Butler each scored 15 to lead the Hornets,
who were 22-for-71 (31 percent) from the field. Paul added 14

New Orleans' largest prior defeat at the Ford Center was a
14-point loss to Boston on Dec. 7.

It was the Hornets' lowest scoring output since an 83-67 defeat
Dec. 17, 2004, also to San Antonio. They tied a franchise low with
seven assists and narrowly avoided all-time lows for points (65)
and field-goal percentage (30 percent) against a Spurs team ranked
No. 1 in the NBA in field-goal defense.

"Just like a lot of young teams do, if they're not making
shots, then they start to get down on themselves instead of trying
to pick up on the other end and make other things happen," Hornets
coach Byron Scott said.

"There's going to be games when you don't make shots. That
cannot make you not defend or not hustle or not play hard on the
other end of the floor. You've got to learn that in this league,
OK, my shot's not falling, I can do other things to stay involved
in this game and stay on the floor."

The Hornets were held to 78 points on Monday at Boston, but that
came two days after their highest-scoring game of the season in a
109-98 win at New York.

"You just bounce back. I promise you if you let this game get
to you too much, you won't be able to perform in the next game,"
Paul said. " ... You just take that game as it is and get ready
for the next one. Shoot the same shots. Hopefully, they'll go in."

Duncan, who matched a season low with 11 points when San Antonio
lost in Oklahoma City last month, scored six points as the Spurs
got out to a 13-2 start and never trailed. Van Exel finished the
first quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Spurs a
23-11 lead and effectively eliminate any impact from the crowd.

"It's huge on the road," Duncan said. "Obviously, you don't
want to get down because all of a sudden the crowd is on top of you
and teams play with a lot of energy."

The Hornets made only 3 of 17 shots in their lowest-scoring
opening period of the season and were never closer than nine points
after that.

Game notes
Guard Manu Ginobili (sprained right ankle) and forward
Robert Horry (right abdominal strain) did not travel with the
Spurs. Coach Gregg Popovich said it's possible they could return
for Saturday's game against Minnesota. "I wouldn't say a good
chance, just a chance," he said. ... In the first quarter, Van
Exel connected from the right wing for his 1,500th career
3-pointer. He and Seattle's Ray Allen are the only active players
with 1,500 in their career. Van Exel leads all active players with
4,214 attempts from 3-point range.