Updated: January 4, 2013, 1:24 AM ET

1. Knicks Beat Up On Fatigued Spurs

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- You have to give Gregg Popovich this: A player can't trip and fall over a courtside waitress if he's home in San Antonio.

Faced with a similar situation as when his team was fined $250,000 last month for sending four players home instead of playing them in a national televised game against the Miami Heat, Popovich used his whole roster Thursday night against the New York Knicks.

It was the fourth game in five nights at the end of road trip. It was the same situation as when he sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to Texas in early December in a move that seemed to anger NBA commissioner David Stern.

When explaining himself on the change of heart with his aging team this time, Popovich said the decision was a "safety" issue not a "rest" issue, which Stern had called unreasonable in handing down the historic fine.

So call it ironic or call it karma that midway through the first quarter the San Antonio Spurs lost key reserve Stephen Jackson to a freak injury that was very clearly the result of a safety problem.

Carmelo Anthony
Debby Wong/USA TODAY SportsMelo's game-high 23 points helped the Knicks roll.

Jackson stepped back after attempting a 3-pointer in the corner and was quite surprised to find himself on top of a courtside waitress who was kneeling behind him just outside the playing floor. She appeared to be taking the order of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's party at the time and was just as alarmed as Jackson.

Five minutes later, Jackson was limping heavily to the Spurs' locker room and Bloomberg was eating a bag of popcorn and drinking a bottle of water. Jackson, who sprained his right ankle, never returned and Popovich declined to comment about it afterward.

This pretty much summed up the evening for the Spurs, who were noticeably sluggish and saw their seven-game win streak snapped as they suffered through their lowest-scoring night of the season in a 100-83 loss to the Knicks.

Nonetheless, it was a needed elixir for the Knicks, who had lost five of their past eight games. After struggling defensively for weeks and trying to deal with lineup changes resulting from the return of Amar'e Stoudemire and an injury to Raymond Felton, the Knicks put forth a quality defensive effort. The Spurs managed to shoot just 36 percent and score 12 points in the paint.

Those numbers mean two of the Spurs' greatest offensive assets -- 3-point shooting and Parker's great penetration game -- were neutralized by the Knicks' schemes.

In an effort to jump-start his defense, Woodson made two moves. One was to show a highlight film to his players of their defense during the first few weeks of the season, when the Knicks were putting up some of the best numbers in the league. The other was to move Marcus Camby into the starting lineup at power forward.

Stoudemire put up better numbers than his first outing by scoring 10 points, but he had his shot blocked three times and had just two rebounds in 21 minutes.

But Camby, who last started a game for the Knicks 11 seasons ago, and Tyson Chandler ended up doing a good job of defending the paint and it carried over throughout the team. The Knicks' activity defensively was markedly improved.

"We put a nice feel-good tape together this morning to show our players," Woodson said. "We were doing everything right at the beginning of the season. There was some major slippage."

Over the years, teams have benefited at times when catching the Spurs on back-to-backs, especially as Duncan has aged. Duncan is in the midst of having his best season in four years, averaging 18 points and nearly 10 rebounds in 30 minutes a game as his troublesome left knee appears to be cooperating better than anyone in the Spurs organization could've predicted.

But playing so many games this week appeared to take a toll on Duncan, who was one of many Spurs who appeared a step slower. Duncan had 11 points but sat the last 15 minutes after the Knicks went on a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter.

But Popovich was quick to give credit to the Knicks, who were happy to take it.

"New York's defense was great tonight," Popovich said. "We were low on fuel and they kicked our butt."

The win gave the Knicks their first season sweep over San Antonio since the 2002-03 season.

"I believe they're the best team in the league," Woodson said. "We beat a damn-good ball club."

"Woody said we we're the best in the league?" Popovich retorted jokingly. "He's full of it. He learned that trick from [mentor] Larry [Brown]."


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