And then the Spurs knew they were in for a game.
"The second group played harder, that's for sure," Parker
Parker scored 24 points, including five down the stretch to halt
New York's frantic comeback attempt, and the Spurs held off the
Knicks 105-93 on Monday night.
Reserve Brent Barry added 19 points for the Spurs, who blew
almost all of a 23-point lead after Knicks coach Isiah Thomas went
deep into his bench with his team seemingly out of the game late in
the first half.
That nearly worked.
"I'm a fighter myself and I want people who are going to fight
and compete," Thomas said. "And if you're not going to fight and
compete, then I'm the president and we can give you a pink slip,
The Knicks used a 20-2 run in the fourth quarter to pull within
92-91 with just over 4 minutes to play on a jumper by Stephon
Marbury, who had the Madison Square Garden fans on their feet after
they heavily booed him during a horrendous game Saturday night.
"The fight has to be in us every single night," Thomas said.
"I thought our young guys, when they came in, maybe because they
were a little naive about the league and maybe didn't know who they
were playing against, they only know one way to do it, and that's
to fight. They fought their tails off and consequently gave some of
our veteran players the courage to fight."
But Parker knocked down a jumper, and after Tim Duncan converted
a three-point play, Parker nailed a 3-pointer that gave the Spurs a
100-91 lead with 1½ minutes left.
Duncan and Manu Ginobili each scored 15 points and Parker had 10
assists for the Spurs, who won on consecutive days following a
victory in Toronto on Sunday.
"It's been kind of tough the second night of back-to-backs, we
don't have the same juice," Ginobili said, referring to the Spurs'
struggles in those situations last season. "But I think today we
did a great job. They just surprised us for a moment. They started
making shots and going at us, and we know they can do it because
they have talent and strength to push us."
San Antonio made 13 3-pointers, five by Barry.
Marbury scored 18 points and Nate Robinson added 15 for New
York, which dropped its third straight following a season-opening
victory at Memphis.
Leading by six early in the second quarter, the Spurs held the
Knicks scoreless for more than 4 minutes during a 22-5 burst.
Parker had two beautiful passes on consecutive possessions, finding
Duncan for an alley-oop in transition, then firing a
behind-the-back pass in the corner to Barry for a 3.
"In the NBA, a coach's nightmare is going up 20 in the first
half, because you know it is going to turn at some point," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said. "There's too many possessions, too many
24-second clocks. Emotion shifts very quickly."
The Spurs led 52-29 with 3:34 remaining in the half. Thomas then
sent out four new players who helped the Knicks close the half with
a 12-2 spurt that made it 54-41.
That group -- with Robinson, David Lee, Malik Rose, and Mardy
Collins joining starter Quentin Richardson -- also opened the second
half, while players such as Marbury and Eddy Curry, who help
comprise the NBA's highest payroll, watched from the bench. Rose
and Collins hadn't even scored this season.
"The guys that were out there, they were getting the job
done," Marbury said. "They were playing with energy and getting
us back in the game."
The Knicks got within 11 early in the third quarter before
Parker and Bruce Bowen knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to give
San Antonio a 62-45 cushion. The Spurs seemed firmly in control
from there, leading by 19 early in the fourth quarter before New
York nearly rallied.
Marbury got a mixed reaction from the crowd during pregame
introductions. He was frequently booed Saturday during the home
opener, when he was 1-for-9 with four points and six turnovers. ...
Knicks G Steve Francis sat out the second half with an injured left
ankle. He was hurt after landing on Bowen's foot while making a
jumper early in the game. X-rays at halftime were negative.
Struggling F Channing Frye also sat the entire second half. ...
Women's boxing champion Laila Ali watched from a courtside seat.
She makes her Madison Square Garden debut Saturday night on the
undercard of the Wladimir Klitschko-Calvin Brock heavyweight bout,
and has said she expects her father, Muhammad Ali, to attend.