(12-2, 4-2 away)
(2-12, 0-6 home)
6:00 PM ET, November 25, 2007
Key Arena, Seattle, WA
SEATTLE (AP) -- The defending champions were angry. They had allowed 64 points in the first half to a young, skittish Seattle team nowhere near their elite class.
"They ran rampant in that first half," Spurs power forward Tim Duncan said. "We didn't say anything ... we understand what it takes to win a game."
Such as scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter while playing shutdown defense more common for April than November. That run and Duncan's 26 points helped the Spurs break away for a 116-101 win over the SuperSonics on Sunday night.
"We really turned up the aggressiveness. Got into passing lanes. Jumped their pick-and-rolls."
The Spurs (12-2) are off to their best start after 14 games in team history -- one game better than last season when they finished with their fourth NBA title in nine seasons.
How important is that to coach Gregg Popovich?
"Not very," he said. "We've had good starts in the past and not won the championship."
In 2005, they began 11-3 yet lost in the second round of the playoffs to Dallas. In 1999, they were 13-3 but lost in the first round to Phoenix.
"It's about taking steps to improve, because everybody knows we are going to the playoffs," Ginobili said. "So it's about in April being in as good a shape as possible."
Reserve Wally Szczerbiak scored 27, including a team season-high 20 in the second quarter, to lead Seattle (2-12). Kevin Durant ended a shooting slump with 25 on 11-for-15 shooting for the Sonics, who matched their worst start since their inaugural season of 1967-68. They are 0-6 at KeyArena, their worst home start ever.
Quite a way to turn off what's left of their fan base before an intended move to Oklahoma City for next season.
"The way we played tonight is good enough to beat lesser teams. It's not good enough to beat the Spurs," new coach P.J. Carlesimo said after a reunion with the team for whom he was an assistant the previous five seasons.
Carlesimo warned his young team that San Antonio would pounce to begin the second half.
"And we come out and have two turnovers, one poor shot and one questionable shot," he lamented.
Seattle's one surge came when Delonte West, Carlesimo's current choice at point guard late in games, made a 3-pointer and Nick Collison drove under Duncan for a reverse layup to cut the Spurs' lead to 101-97 with 5:11 left.
But then West turned the ball over and missed a 3 and Chris Wilcox missed a dunk. Parker, meanwhile, made consecutive baskets -- the second a fallaway pushing off one leg -- and two free throws to put the Spurs back in command, 107-99.
Szczerbiak was feeling so good in the second quarter that he pulled rank and refused to hand off to a surprised Durant during a give-and-go play late in the half. Szczerbiak stepped back and made his eighth shot in 10 tries instead.
His bonanza brought Seattle back from a seven-point deficit into that stunning tie at halftime. That in itself was such an accomplishment for the Sonics, the arena public address announcer intoned "What do you know?" to the surprised crowd at the end of the half.
But as the Spurs opened the third with those 12 straight points to seize control, Szczerbiak sat until 6 1/2 minutes elapsed.
"I've been a starter my whole career in this league, but that's what I'm being asked to do right now," Szczerbiak said of adjusting playing a reserve role.
The Spurs' lead grew to 80-67 with 5:21 left in the period when Duncan's pass found Ginobili running the baseline for a soaring, left-handed dunk.
Durant wowed the champs -- and the crowd of 14,186 -- with a quick crossover dribble that buckled Ginobili's ankles while Durant swished a jumper late in the third quarter.
"I'm learning every game," the 19-year-old said. "Every game is fun. Bruce Bowen told me before the game, 'Have fun.' "
The second overall pick in June's draft tried to bring the Sonics within five points of the Spurs late in the third when he took a long outlet pass and drove hard at and under Duncan. But he threw a wild shot high and wide off the glass. Carlesimo bowed his head, clasped his hands on the back of his neck and then pulled Durant from the game.
Popovich and Carlesimo met for dinner Saturday night and hugged before pregame introductions. Carlesimo and general manager Sam Presti, an assistant GM with San Antonio until last summer, spent Sunday's pregame greeting friends. Spurs players came up to Presti, who was wearing a dark sports coat, slacks and tie, and teased the boyish GM that he didn't dress up enough for the reunion. ... Wilcox started and scored 16 points in 35 minutes, despite a sprained left ankle that Carlesimo said is not much better than it was Friday when he hobbled through a loss to New Jersey.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||41-80 (.513)||41-78 (.526)|
|3PM-3PA||11-19 (.579)||4-10 (.400)|
|FTM-FTA||23-24 (.958)||15-18 (.833)|
|Fast Break Points||2||6|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||22 (0/0)|