Spurs Get Out of Funk

The San Antonio Spurs are struggling on offense and in third place in their division. They're not too concerned, either.

After the Spurs ended a two-game slide with a methodical 95-86 win Monday over the Charlotte Bobcats, there were chuckles and confident responses to questions about the defending NBA champions' recent struggles.

``For a decade now this has been our period where we get into a little lull,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ``Hopefully we will be a lot better at playoff time as we have been in the past.''

Popovich has those four NBA titles 11 seasons to prove it may be unwise to abandon the experienced Spurs and hitch a ride with one of the other top teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

San Antonio's offense looked as good as it has been in a while against the Bobcats. Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds and five Spurs scored in double figures as San Antonio ended a three-game stretch where it failed to reach 90 points.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker added 16 points apiece and Michael Finley scored 13 for the Spurs, who shot 49 percent in only their third win in seven games.

The Spurs still trail Dallas and New Orleans in the Southwest Division, but Duncan fully expects San Antonio to be back near the top come playoff time.

``We have the same set of guys. We have the experience,'' Duncan said. ``I don't see why not.''

San Antonio kept it simple against Charlotte, executing the pick-and-roll to perfection and clamping down on defense to stymie one of the league's most impressive teams of late.

Emeka Okafor had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats, whose stretch of five wins in eight games had including victories over Boston, Denver and Orlando. Gerald Wallace added 15 points before leaving late in the game after aggravating a sore left calf and knee.

Charlotte managed only 39 points in the second half. Jason Richardson (13 points) and Wallace combined to shoot 10 of 36 from the field.

``They're a great team, one of the best teams in the league if not the best,'' Wallace said in the training room, where his elevated left leg was strapped to an electronic stimulation machine. ``In order to for us to beat a team like that, we have to play a perfect game.''

The Spurs, who missed game-tying jumpers in the closing seconds of two-point losses in their last two games, faced no such pressure this time.

Ginobili's 3-pointer with 9:45 left in the game made it 80-71. Duncan later went to work down low, dunking off a nifty pass from Brent Barry and faking out Okafor for another jam with 3:57 left that made it 90-79.

``I think we did a bad job of playing pick-and-roll,'' said Wallace, who hopes to play Wednesday against Dallas. ``They probably ran that, what, 90 percent of the time? That was one of the biggest things that hurt us.''

Charlotte, 0-4 all-time against the Spurs at home, stuck around in the second half, but could never take the lead. Ginobili's runner made it 73-67 San Antonio entering the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats, who made two of 14 3-pointers, couldn't rally despite getting 12 points from reserve Nazr Mohammed.

``This is probably one game that I don't feel bad about losing,'' Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said. ``We played pretty well. We lost to a championship team.''

A team that is still feeing good about itself heading into Wednesday's home showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

``Losses at this part of the season have never really bothered us much,'' Popovich said. ``It's a game of mistakes. It's just an educational thing until playoff time comes around.''

Notes: It was the fourth straight year the Bobcats hosted a game on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a priority for owner Bob Johnson, the NBA's first black majority owner. ``Playing at home for us, and particularly for me, it's something that I'm very proud of,'' said Johnson, who sat courtside next to former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume. ... A day after the Spurs re-signed Jeremy Richardson to a second 10-day contract, the second-year swingman got his first career start. Richardson had three points in 12 minutes. ... Spurs F Bruce Bowen extended the NBA's longest active consecutive games played streak to 475.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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