For San Antonio, that led to another efficient victory. For New York, it was just another dreary loss.
Marco Belinelli scored a season-high 22 points and the short-handed Spurs rolled to a 109-95 victory over New York on Wednesday night, handing the Knicks their 10th straight loss.
San Antonio was without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. Parker (left hamstring) and Leonard (bruised right hand) were both injured, but Duncan and Ginobili sat out to rest on the second night of a back-to-back.
''They are the defending champions,'' New York coach Derek Fisher said. ''Even with their main guys out, they know who they are.''
The Spurs were 10 for 19 on 3-pointers and shot 51 percent overall while handing out 22 assists. They had seven players in double figures, getting 13 points from Danny Green and 12 from Boris Diaw.
''I haven't been this pleased in a while,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ''I just saw a lot of guys who haven't played much play the fundamental game; they executed well. Guys that haven't played are going to try hard, that's not that big of a deal, but their execution was really good.''
The Knicks were not nearly as efficient.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting for the hapless Knicks, who fell to 4-20.
New York was without Carmelo Anthony, who experienced soreness in his left knee after playing 39 minutes in Tuesday night's loss at New Orleans. Guard J.R. Smith, the team's third-leading scorer, was a late scratch with a sore heel.
Popovich wasn't taking the night off, even without his big stars. The fiery coach called timeout a minute into the game to chastise Green for missing a defensive assignment that enabled Hardaway to score the game's first points on an open 3-pointer. Popovich would call two timeouts in the opening six minutes to address the team's defensive performance.
''It's expected of us,'' Green said. ''It's not who's playing and who's not. Pop just expects us to execute.''
The team got the message, rolling to a double-digit lead while forcing the Knicks into 17 turnovers.
''The beauty of the system is that no matter who is playing, anybody can be successful,'' said Spurs center Jeff Ayres, who had a season-high 11 points. ''You do not have to play outside of yourself to be successful, just go out and execute, which was a key point tonight.''
Spurs center Tiago Splitter returned from an 18-game absence, entering to a loud ovation with 8 minutes left in the third quarter. Splitter has been out since Nov. 5, but left 10 minutes into his season debut after again experiencing tightness in his right calf.
Splitter's return helped San Antonio close the third quarter on a 24-12 run. He had three points, two blocked shots and one rebound while playing 4:45 in the third. The Spurs outscored the Knicks 38-21 in the quarter in taking a 94-73 lead.
''He's Tiago, and he's really important to us,'' Popovich said. ''It was great to see him back.''
Knicks: New York won its previous two games in San Antonio. . Amare Stoudemire was issued a technical foul with 10:19 remaining in the first half for continuing to berate Sean Wright over a personal foul he assessed on the Knicks center. Twenty seconds later, official Tony Brothers gave New York G Pablo Prigioni a technical foul for arguing a call.
Spurs: Leonard will undergo an MRI on his bruised right hand Thursday morning, according to Popovich. The injury occurred late in Tuesday's loss to the Jazz when Leonard tried to brace a fall, but landed on his posterior after being fouled on an attempted dunk. ... Duncan was in uniform, but did not play. ... Cory Joseph entered the game as the only player averaging at least eight points, two rebounds and two assists in less than 20 minutes per game. He had nine points, five rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes.
Knicks: At Boston on Friday.
Spurs: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
WE MEET AGAIN
Fisher was soundly booed when he was announced as during pregame introductions. The fans obviously still remember all the postseason skirmishes with the former Lakers guard, especially his game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds remaining in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. Still, Popovich, who normally waves at opposing coaches prior to tipoff, walked over and gave Fisher a hug and spoke with the Knicks' first-year coach for a couple of minutes.