SEATTLE (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs have turned things around
in a big way.
The defending NBA champions improved their record to 18-10,
including 7-7 on the road. They can tie the Los Angeles Lakers for
the longest winning streak in the NBA this season with a win at
Portland on Saturday night. Not bad for a team that lost four in a
row prior to their current streak.
"It was a good night for us," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
"Any win on the road is always good."
The Sonics, who lost their third straight game, got 15 points
from Ronald Murray, who shot a paltry 6-for-26, and 11 from rookie
Luke Ridnour. Seattle's leading scorer, Rashard Lewis, played only
24 minutes and fouled out with 8:23 to go. Lewis had seven points
and 10 rebounds.
San Antonio beat Seattle for the fourth straight time.
The Spurs have held their opponents to 73 points or less in six
of the nine games.
"Without our defense, we're going to struggle," Popovich said.
"It's what we have to do to win. We're not great offensively.
Timmy obviously is. But he doesn't have a whole crew to fit with
him and make shots."
Duncan, who also had four blocked shots, played a
super-efficient 40 minutes, not looking like he was working too
hard but getting plenty done nonetheless.
Led by the 7-footer from the Virgin Islands, the Spurs are
beginning to get comfortable with each other after the retirement
of David Robinson.
"I think everybody is relaxing and making an effort to get out
there and stay within our system and do what we do," Duncan said.
"It's been working and everybody is starting to believe."
"It's tough at the beginning of every year," Duncan said.
"But credit to Pop and the rest of the coaching staff, he always
does a great job of getting guys together and getting guys on the
same page. He knows the season is long and we have to use every
game as a learning experience.
"So by the end of the year, we feel we have an opportunity to
do the best that this team can."
The outcome was determined early. The Spurs held the Sonics to
3-for-21 shooting in the first quarter in taking a 25-9 lead.
Seattle never got closer than 11 points after that.
The Sonics missed their first 10 shots in falling behind 11-1
before Vladimir Radmanovic made a layup with 5:05 gone. The nine
points by Seattle was the team's low for a quarter this season.
The Sonics, already playing without Ray Allen, got only 12
minutes from Lewis in the first half because he got into early foul
trouble. Lewis was charged with his third personal foul when he
knocked down Bruce Bowen for an offensive foul with just 2:58 gone
in the second quarter.
The Sonics cut their deficit to 39-27 with 2:46 to go before the
Spurs went on a 12-2 run to finish the first half with Duncan
scoring five of them on a dunk, a layup and a free throw.
In the third period, the Sonics tried playing their two centers,
Jerome James and Calvin Booth, together in an effort to hold Duncan
in check, but it didn't work. San Antonio's biggest lead in the
period was 24 points, 61-37, after a layup by Nesterovic.
Sonics coach Nate McMillan is getting tired of seeing Duncan.
"Tim is great," he said. "He controls the ball offensively
and defensively. He's going to be a Hall of Famer."
And the addition of the 7-foot Nesterovic, signed as a free
agent by the Spurs after five seasons in Minnesota, has been a key
for San Antonio.
"Having two 7-footers back there to contest shots, that's a
nice luxury to have," McMillan said.
Sonics PG Brent Barry missed the game with a sore left hip.
He started and played 22 minutes in his team's 99-98 loss to Denver
Wednesday night. "It was bothering him then, but he tried to go,"
McMillan said. Murray started in place of Barry in Seattle's
backcourt. ... McMillan said before the game he is unsure when
Allen will be able to play again. Allen, who had a bone chip
removed from his right ankle Nov. 1, practiced with the Sonics for
the first time Thursday. McMillan reported he had no swelling in
his ankle Friday. "I think he needs a few more practices,"
McMillan said. "I think he needs to get knocked down."