Spurs keep pace with Mavericks atop division, conference

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Brent Barry was nearly off the team. Now the San Antonio Spurs can't wait to get him off their bench.

Barry made four 3-pointers and all six shots from the floor in a reserve role, and San Antonio beat the fading New Orleans Hornets 96-81 on Tuesday night.

Barry was informed by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich before last month's trade deadline that it was possible he would be dealt.

"He's been important for us," Popovich said. "[He's] taking advantage of opportunities and shooting when open. He's been driving, rebounding, just playing good defense."

Barry scored 16 points, which matched his season high recorded four days earlier against the Lakers.

Tony Parker scored 20 points and had 11 assists.

The Spurs (50-14) maintained a share of the lead in the Southwest Division and the top record in the Western Conference with the Dallas Mavericks, who beat Cleveland 91-87 on Tuesday.

"I've got no choice but to (watch the standings)," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "Every time I walk into the practice facility it's right there, so I know what's going on."

The Hornets (31-32) have lost a season-worst seven straight games and are 2-9 since the All-Star break. They have fallen below .500 for the first time since Jan. 28 and are 0-6 in March -- with Tuesday's game being only the second one on the road this month.

"When you get punctured and open a wound, you have to stop the bleeding," Hornets center Marc Jackson said. "Like a boxer, you have to dig in and keep coming forward. You can't get on your heels."

Jackson and Chris Paul each scored 16 points for the Hornets,
who trailed by seven points with 7:43 left in the game but were outscored 17-9 the rest of the way.

Jackson, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Feb. 23, made his first four shot attempts to help the Hornets get off to a fast start. They opened the game 8-of-11, but made 10 of 25 the rest of the half.

San Antonio outscored the Hornets 43-25 the rest of the first half to take a 13-point lead to the locker room.

Barry, who came off the Spurs' bench with the Hornets holding a five-point lead, went 4-of-4 in the half, with three of those 3-pointers. He added three assists and a blocked shot in 23 minutes.

He's been on the floor more since the trade deadline, when other teams involved in possible deals couldn't make room on their salary cap to fit Barry.

"I'm getting more time on the floor, and that helps to find a rhythm," Barry said.

The Spurs' coaching staff had a message for the team at halftime. The number 50 was written and circled on a board in the locker room.

That's because the Hornets, the fourth-worst shooting team in the league with a .440 field-goal percentage, had made half of their shots in the first half. The Spurs limited New Orleans to 15-of-37 in the second half.

San Antonio was 7-of-21 from 3-point range. New Orleans was 1-of-6. The Spurs also were 23-of-30 from the foul line while the Hornets were 14-of-20.

Hornets forward David West still managed 35 minutes and 14 points despite picking up his fourth foul 34 seconds into the third quarter.

Game notes
Hornets starting forward Desmond Mason walked to the locker
room without assistance 50 seconds into the game after suffering a
bruised left knee. He did not return. ... Spurs guard Manu Ginobili
went 0-for-7 from the field. ... The 17 points scored by Duncan
marked the fifth time in the last six games he has failed to score
at least 20 points, including a 12-point performance in a loss last
week against the Lakers.