Spurs 107, Suns 86

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PHOENIX (AP)—Even without Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs are proving they’re one of the best teams in the NBA.

Rasho Nesterovic scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Malik Rose had 19 points and Tony Parker got 17, leading the Spurs to a 107-86 romp over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

“The way the team is performing in Timmy’s absence, I’m very pleased,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s made us a more solid club since Timmy’s been out.”

Duncan, the NBA’s two-time Most Valuable Player who led the Spurs to the league championship last season, has been on the disabled list for five games with an injured left knee. Since that time, the Spurs are 4-1. Overall, this season, Duncan has missed eight games, and San Antonio is 6-2.

The victory moved San Antonio within 2 1/2 games of Western Conference-leading Minnesota.

With Duncan sidelined, Nesterovic and Parker have been the key forces behind the Spurs’ success.

“Rasho has really stepped up his game,” Rose said. “With Timmy out, he’s really blossomed.”

Nesterovic, who was averaging 8.6 points before facing the Suns, scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished the game only one shy of his season high.

“I am just relaxing,” Nesterovic said. “Even when he (Duncan) is going to be back, you don’t have to score much to help your team.”

Amare Stoudemire topped the Suns with 23 points, the 11th straight game he has been the team’s top scorer. It also was the 11th consecutive game in which he has scored 20 points or more—the longest such streak for a Phoenix player since Charles Barkley did it during the 1994-95 season.

With Nesterovic, Parker and Rose all scoring in double figures against the Suns’ leaky defense, the Spurs bolted to a 56-41 halftime lead. Showing no weariness after having played Friday night and without Duncan, the Spurs outhustled and outshot the well-rested Suns, who had been idle since Wednesday.

The Spurs never trailed and led by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter.

Shawn Marion added 17 points for the Suns and Joe Johnson and Zarko Cabarkapa each scored 14.

Nesterovic had 14 points in the first half, going 7-of-8, mostly against undersized Jake Voskuhl. He wound up 11-for-14.

Parker scored 11 points in the opening two periods and smartly directed the Spurs’ offense. Rose also had 11, 10 in the second quarter when San Antonio built leads of 17 points on three occasions.

Overall, the Spurs shot 57.5 percent (23-of-40) to only 42.1 percent (16-of-38) for the Suns in the half. San Antonio finished at 50 percent (42-for-84) to Phoenix’s 43.2 (32-for-74).

Marion and Suns coach Mike D’Antoni criticized the team’s lack of effort.

“The effort was not there for a victory,” Marion said. “We just didn’t come to play tonight, and that basically means that we can’t expect anything. We didn’t get beat, we got a whupping.”

D’Antoni said: “There is no excuse for not having effort.”

Phoenix got off to an ignominious start, missing 10 of its first 11 shots, and never recovered.

Stoudemire led the Suns with 12 points in the half, but had difficulty getting his shots because of the Spurs’ tenacious defense, the second-best in the league. He often was surrounded by two or three defenders.

With Nesterovic, Parker and Rose doing most of their scoring in the thirdperiod, the Spurs extended their lead to as much as 22 points (74-52).


: The Spurs won the previous two meetings between the teams by a total of three points: 83-82 on opening night at San Antonio and 86-84 on Jan. 23 at Phoenix. … Several singers, actors and entertainers, including Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Jonathan Lipnicki and Sean Patrick Thomas, were in attendance at the game, one day before participating in Sunday’s Celebrity Shootout at America West Arena. … The Suns are the only NBA team with three foreign-born rookies: Leandro Barbosa, Cabarkapa and Maciej Lampe. Lampe, who had scored only six points this season, had eight in the fourth quarter. … Although Popovich’s winning percentage is one of the best in NBA history at .649(381-206), he still has a losing record against the Suns (15-16).

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