SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The defending NBA champions are still in last place, although a four-game winning streak has made that status a little easier to swallow.
Tim Duncan had 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 102-victory over Portland on Wednesday night. The Spurs began the night percentage points behind Utah for last place in the Midwest Division, and they stayed there as the Jazz defeated New York.
“We played well execution-wise on both ends of the floor,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team defense was good. We did a better job on the boards in the second half. The guys look more familiar with what we are doing. All in all, it was a good night.”
The Spurs, who never trailed, placed five players in double figures as Tony Parker and Rasho Nesterovic added 17 points apiece. Manu Ginobili added 11 points, six rebounds and a career-high six steals.
Portland, which dropped to 0-8 on the road, was led by Rasheed Wallace’s 23 points and Zach Randolph’s 22. The Trail Blazers were playing the second game of a back-to-back set after losing at Houston on Tuesday.
“They were better than we were in every facet of the game,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It’s another road loss. I kept trying to get the fight out of us and I couldn’t. We were very flat. We have guys who can play, we just have to find a way to play better. We know we can win 10 or 11 straight, but right now we’re not playing well.”
San Antonio, which led 29-18 after one, closed the second quarter with a 12-5 run and led 47-36 at halftime as Duncan had 14 points. The Spurs opened the third quarter with a 12-5 run and led 59-41 on a free throw by Ginobili with 8:11 to play in the period.
“We’re confident but we’re still building,” said Duncan, who shot 6-for-14. “We know we aren’t peaking but we are getting better and playing with a lot more confidence that we were We are building on the wins and getting more confident. We need to do that on the road and get a good road win in Houston.”
Portland rallied with a 9-4 run at the end of the third quarter and trailed 71-59 going to the final quarter. After Wallace’s 3-point field goal brought Portland within 71-62, San Antonio answered with a 16-5 run and led 87-67 on Ginobili’s 15-foot jump shot with 6:12 to play.
Portland, which shot only 33 percent from the floor, could get no closer than 18 the rest of the way.
“We’re listening to coach, but right now we are in one of those streaks where little is going right for us,” Randolph said. “We’ve got to keep trying. We’ll turn this around.”
San Antonio, which had only eight turnovers, shot 49.4 percent from the field and had 44 points in the paint to Portland’s 32.
“We are just trying to pull it all together, keep getting better and get wins,” San Antonio forward Bruce Bowen said. “Everybody is starting to learn what we need to do to win. We understand that every team is gunning for us. We
Portland has lost 11 of its last 12 road games over the last two seasons … The win was San Antonio’s third straight over Portland … Duncan totaled his 18th double-double in 19 games. … Malik Rose of San Antonio sat out his fourth straight game with a strained right peroneal tendon. … The Spurs are 8-3 at home this season. … Randolph was one rebound shy of his 11thdouble-double of the season.