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Duncan hits first 3 of season as Spurs nip Hornets

SAN ANTONIO -- Tim Duncan knew the San Antonio Spurs had to
do something in the last quarter.

Down nine points going into the period, Duncan had already done
plenty, scoring 12 points in the third and hitting his first
3-pointer of the season.

So the Spurs turned up the defensive effort, holding the New
Orleans Hornets to just 13 fourth-quarter points to win 92-88
Wednesday.

"We gave up a lot in the previous quarters. It was a great way
to turn it up," said Duncan, who led the Spurs with 31 points.

Brent Barry hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help
the Spurs rally for their fifth straight victory. He finished with
15 points. Michael Finley added 13 and Manu Ginobili scored 12 for
San Antonio.

The Spurs swept their four-game series with the Hornets, who
have lost two in a row and are 4-6 in their last 10. New Orleans
lost at home Tuesday to the league-leading Dallas Mavericks,
105-89.

Chris Paul scored 20 points to lead six Hornets in double
figures. David West added 16, Jannero Pargo scored 13 and Rasual
Butler had 12.

Barry keyed the fourth-quarter rally. His third 3-pointer of the
fourth quarter tied the game at 77 with 6:39 left.

Finley's 3 gave San Antonio an 80-77 lead before Pargo tied it
again. Finley then hit another 3 from the same sweet spot less than
2 minutes later to make it 84-80 San Antonio.

Paul's alley-oop pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk brought New
Orleans within one and the Hornets took an 88-87 lead with 1:42
left off of Paul's two free throws.

Finley stole the ball on a later possession and Barry sank his
fourth 3 of the quarter to make it 90-88 with 17.9 seconds left.

"Obviously that last one cost us big time," said Hornets coach
Byron Scott. "Brent Barry was just sitting out there wide open.
He's what? Top two or three in this league in 3-point percentage,
and we left him open three or four times tonight."

West's shot wouldn't fall and Paul was called for a foul with
1.2 seconds left. Jacque Vaughn sank both free throws to seal the
win.

Scott said his team played "not to lose the game instead of to
win it" and said he hoped his players were upset for letting the
game slip away.

They were.

"This one definitely burns because it felt like this is
definitely a game that we had," Chandler said. "We could have
won. Every second I thought we were going to win."

Devin Brown added 11 points for New Orleans and Chandler had 10
points and 12 rebounds.

Paul said Wednesday's loss was particularly tough because of the
race for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs. While
San Antonio already has clinched a spot, New Orleans is just a few
games below the current cut.

"It's tough, especially being in the playoff hunt. We've just
got to try and win the rest," Paul said.

San Antonio had the highlight play of the first half as Duncan
saved the ball from going out-of-bounds in the second quarter, then
sank his first 3-pointer of the season as the shot clock expired.
Duncan was 0-of-8 from 3-point range this season before Wednesday's
game.

"If they allowed me to, during the All-Star game I'd join the
3-point shooting contest," Duncan joked.

With 1:16 left in the second quarter Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
got called for a technical foul for complaining after Duncan was
called for his second foul of the night. Popovich left the court
for the rest of the half, but was back after the break.

Popovich said he thought he'd been ejected.

"I saw two different referees call a technical and I quickly
added that in my head. It came out two. That means you're gone,"
Popovich said. "If you hang around, you get fined thousands of
dollars, so I walked out the tunnel."

Asked whether somebody told him he'd just gotten one technical,
Popovich joked: "Yeah, but I told them I was tired."

Game notes
During the teams' last meeting in January, Popovich was
ejected in the first quarter for arguing with officials after
Duncan was called for a foul. ... Wednesday's game was tied six
times in the first half and saw four lead changes. ... San Antonio
ended up 11-of-28 (39 percent) from 3-point range while New Orleans
went 8-of-13 (61.5 percent). ... Despite losing, the Hornets
outshot the Spurs from the field, from 3-point range and from the
foul line.