“When I got the call and heard I was starting, I thought it was a joke,” said Hart, who played 31 minutes and committed just one turnover to help the San Antonio Spurs to an 86-74 victory over the New York Knicks.
With Tony Parker (sore left ankle) and Anthony Carter (left patella tendinitis) sidelined, the Spurs gave the start to Hart—signed Friday after being cut by Seattle. He had two points and two assists.
“The point guards deserve all the credit. Jason Hart and Shane Heal did a great job trying to run the show with out knowing the system,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Heal, an Australian who played briefly in the NBA for Minnesota, had 11 points—including a pair of 3-pointers—and two assists in 17 backup minutes.
“Its been frustrating for me to have to watch the first couple of games,” said Heal, who was sidelined with a sore back. “Tonight was a huge opportunity for me to show what I can do to help this team.”
Four other Spurs scored in double figures—Hedo Turkoglu with 14 points, Bruce Bowen and Rasho Nesterovic with 12 each and Manu Ginobili with 10—in helping San Antonio rebound from an embarrassing loss to Denver on Thursday.
The Knicks cut their deficit to 55-48 with 5:35 left in the third when Thomas hit the last of his three straight baskets, but that was the closest they would get. San Antonio carried a 67-56 lead into the fourth quarter and later went on a 13-4 run for its largest lead—81-64 with 5:58 left.
“We have to be able to score points. We’ve just got to score,” Knickscoach Don Chaney said. “When we make a bad play, we have to stay positive.”
The Knicks were the only team the Spurs failed to defeat last season. … Hart played for the Spurs during the 2001-02 season, appearing in 10 games. … New York shot 94 percent from the free throw line (15-of-16), while Duncanshot 50 percent (5-for-10).