Spurs 109, Celtics 92

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BOSTON (AP)—The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs rediscovered a familiar formula and ended their three-game losing streak.

With a strong defensive effort backed by Rasho Nesterovic’s season-high 23 points and 13 rebounds, the Spurs beat the Boston Celtics 109-92 Sunday.

“We combined 48 minutes of good defense with making some shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That certainly makes things easy for us.”

Tony Parker scored 20 points—all by halftime—and Tim Duncan added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs.

“Call in the search party, because we’ve found him tonight,” Popovich said, referring to Parker. “Without him, we’ve got problems. He’s very important to us. It was nice to see him be aggressive and make some shots.”

Celtics coach Jim O’Brien wasn’t nearly as pleased, of course, after his team’s fourth loss in a row.

Boston was outrebounded 50-34 and outscored in the paint 54-34.

“Over the last two games, we too easily allowed the ball to get to the rim, and I guess I would say that I will play only the people from here on that will make it a point not to let the basketball get to the rim,” O’Brien said. “If I have to overplay people minutes to get the toughness that we need in that phase of the game, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Paul Pierce scored 19, Mark Blount added 15, and reserve Ricky Davis had 14 for Boston.

“It’s really tough when you go out on the court and all five guys aren’t on the same page all the time,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to find our way together as a team that just came together this year.”

San Antonio has beaten Boston 12 times in a row and is 18-1 against the Celtics since the 1993-94 season.

The Celtics trailed by 13 points in the second quarter but cut the Spurs’ lead to 64-56 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third.

But Robert Horry made one of two free throws, and Duncan and Manu Ginobili made consecutive baskets as the Spurs built their lead to 71-56 with a little more than a minute to go in the third.

Backup guard Charlie Ward scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for the Spurs, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Celtics never got closer than 13 points in the final quarter. The Spurs had their biggest lead of the game at 95-70 on Bruce Bowen’s jumper with 5:14 left in the game.

“Our defense was a lot better tonight, better for a longer period oftime,” Duncan said.

Notes

The Celtics are 9-7 against Western Conference teams this season: 7-1 on the road, 2-6 at home. … Pierce went 14-of-54 from the field in his lasttwo games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 San Antonio
R. Nesterovic R. Nesterovic
11-19,  23 Pts
13 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Boston
M. James M. James
3-6,  6 Pts
4 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists