The Spurs, chasing Oklahoma City for the best record in the West, trailed by a point twice in the final two minutes. Duncan responded each time, atoning for a lackluster game by making two free throws and tipping in a missed shot with 1:19 left to give San Antonio the lead for good.
''New Orleans was more efficient than we were and executed better than we did,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ''So we just had to hang in there and keep plugging. That is probably the best thing we did was keep on pushing, and at the end of the game it worked out. We were fortunate.''
Jarrett Jack had 27 points for the Hornets, but only two came in the fourth quarter. He also committed a turnover and missed a driving layup in the final 32.7 seconds.
''I was just trying to make a play at the basket,'' he said. ''My legs were kind of tired. I tried to muster it up there, and I just didn't have enough steam to get it up on the glass.''
Duncan finished with 13 points and seven rebounds but was only 4 of 11 from the field. Popovich said before the victory he probably would rest Duncan when the Spurs host Philadelphia on Sunday in their third game in three days.
New Orleans had one final chance to tie after the Spurs' Danny Green missed two free throws with 2.3 seconds left, but Marco Belinelli threw up an air ball in traffic after catching an inbounds pass.
Tony Parker had 12 points and 10 assists for San Antonio, and reserve Stephen Jackson added 14 points. The Spurs played without Manu Ginobili, who stayed in San Antonio to rest a sore hip.
''It was a hard-fought win,'' Parker said. ''We'll take it.''
Carl Landry had 15 points for the Hornets, who were missing three starters from their win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
The ugly, tight game had 14 ties and 16 lead changes. The Spurs were ahead by one at the end of the first quarter, the Hornets had a one-point advantage at halftime and the Spurs led by one again at the end of the third.
After Duncan's tip-in, Green took a wild pass from Parker and hit a contested baseline jumper to give San Antonio an 89-86 lead in the final minute.
The Hornets shot 5 of 18 in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs are 3-0 against the Hornets but won by two in their other trip to New Orleans in January.
''We've had tough times both times we have been here,'' Popovich said. ''I don't think any staff, players or organization has had as difficult circumstances as them, and they continue to play hard every game. It's pretty impressive. It's nice to see.''
The Hornets were without center Chris Kaman (sick), forward Trevor Ariza (sprained ankle) and Jason Smith, who served the first of a two-game suspension for a flagrant 2 foul Thursday on the Clippers' Blake Griffin.
Their three replacements in the starting lineup - Greivis Vasquez, Gustavo Ayon and Lance Thomas - averaged 18.7 points combined entering the game.
''We didn't have one guy blink,'' New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. ''They went out and played hard and just came up short. I'm kicking myself because I couldn't put us in position to win at the end.''
Parker and Duncan did not make a shot in the first quarter and had only one field goal apiece in the second quarter. Blair carried the Spurs early, scoring 12 of their first 18 points and finishing the first half with 16. All but two of his points came on layups or putbacks.
''He does what he does,'' Popovich said. ''He's got great hands and he hits the boards hard. He's real clever around the bucket.''
Jack had 17 points in the first half.
NOTES: Popovich said he would try to avoid having Ginobili play on back-to-back nights whenever possible. ... San Antonio signed Justin Dentmon out of the NBA Development League earlier Saturday to back up Parker. Dentmon scored two points in six minutes. . Parker had his ninth double-double, and eight have come on the road. . The Spurs were in the second game of a five-games-in-six-days stretch. . San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard missed three shots on the opening possessions, grabbed all three rebounds and scored on his fourth attempt.
- Tim Duncan
- New Orleans Hornets
- San Antonio
- San Antonio Spurs
- New Orleans