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article imageNBA: New Orleans humbles Spurs, 96-72, for eighth straight win

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 23, 2011 in Sports
New Orleans - After taking care of business on home court in their last four games, the San Antonio Spurs hit the road for a three game swing, with their first stop in New Orleans on Saturday night for a game that should not have been scheduled.
The Hornets, coming off a Friday night humiliation of the Hawks in Atlanta, a game in which they held the Hawks to 59 total points on 29 percent field goal shooting, returned home and 24 hours later did almost the same thing to San Antonio, the team with the league’s best record. By the time the crowd’s roar had settled, the Hornets picked up their eighth win in a row, trouncing the Spurs 96-72 and improving to 29-16.
No doubt, after reaching an eight game win streak themselves, the Spurs woke up and realized the rest of the season does not look kind. Twelve of their next 13 would be on the road, including the annual Rodeo Road Trip, a staple of the Spurs regular season diet since 1999, thanks to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, an event transforming their home court into a haven for cowgirls, cowboys, sheep, pigs, horses and wild bulls.
On top of that, of the Spurs’ 39 games left in the season before Saturday’s game, 24 are road games. Nine of those games come as a result of that grueling Rodeo Road Trip, covering a span of 17 days and includes three sets of back-to-backs. If the Lakers are ever going to move toward the number one seed in the West, it will happen soon. If the Spurs play much more ball like they played, or didn’t play, Saturday night, it will happen sooner than most think.
On paper, the game looked to be a defensive beauty, with the Hornets’ seven-game winning streak holding opponents to an 86 points per game average on 41 percent shooting. San Antonio’s eight-game win streak came as a result of an improving defense in which opponents averaged 91.5 points per game on 40 percent field goal shooting.
New Orleans got off to a quick 5-0 start after Chris Paul nailed a three-pointer, pushing Spurs coach Gregg Popovich into an early 20-second time out, no doubt to get the team’s attention.
Tim Duncan missed his first three shots, going to the bench early after playing almost 35 minutes against the Knicks the previous night. That move helped New Orleans’ Emeka Okafor take charge in the middle, with three blocks in the first quarter.
The Spurs shooting in the first quarter was abysmal, hitting only three of their first 15 attempts and trailing by one, 10-9, including a scoreless stretch of over three minutes.
New Orleans could not fare much better, hitting four of 19 for a 22 percent average. Finally, with 2:30 to go in the first, Trevor Ariza drained a three, putting them up 13-9.
The Spurs worked for last shot of quarter, but turned the ball over, and trailed the Hornets 13-12 at the end of one. Their 12 points was the lowest in any first quarter this season, but it would get worse.
The Hornets went up 21-16, tying their largest lead of the game with 7:30 left in the second quarter. The two teams had combined to hit just 14 of 54 shot attempts by then.
George Hill hit a three to bring the Spurs within two, 21-19. A Gary Neal trey put the Spurs up 26-23. They then went up 33-28 on a Manu Ginobili steal that turned into his fifth assist to a streaking Richard Jefferson for a layup and their largest lead of the game. The doldrums were momentarily over, as the Spurs had hit their last six shots.
After a timeout, New Orleans came back and pulled within two, 36-34, on a Chris Paul jumper.
Marcus Thornton hit a three for the Hornets, putting them up 38-36. Maro Belinelli followed with a three, giving them a five point lead with seven seconds before the buzzer, but Ginobili hit a shot with three seconds left, and the teams went into intermission with the Hornets leading, 41-38. Chris Paul led the way for New Orleans with eight points.
The Hornets opened the third on a 10-4 run and a nine point lead, 51-42, their largest of the game. David West hit a jumper from the top of the key and their 54-42 lead came on a 9-0 run. The roof was about to crash in on the Spurs 8-game wining streak and the home crowd was loving every minute of it.
The Spurs had gone three and a half minutes without scoring, but they weren’t done not scoring just yet. The Hornets were on an 11-0 run and running away with the game, 56-42. Ariza soon nailed a three, pushing the lead to 17 at 59-42. Okafor then blocked Tiago Splitter twice within two seconds and Ariza followed with another three, putting them up 62-42. A David West tip-in made it 64-42 and the home crowd was deafening.
By the time the cobwebs were fully entrenched in the Spurs team at the end of the third quarter, New Orleans had put together a 21-0 run and was in total control with a 72-48 lead. All Spurs starters were on the bench before the quarter was even done. San Antonio scored 10 points in the quarter, their lowest-scoring third quarter of the season and let New Orleans score 31 on them.
A Marcus Thornton three just under the 11:00 mark was New Orleans’ tenth of the game, out of 13 attempts. Just to be sure, Thornton nailed another three with eight minutes left, and the score felt like a million to one.
Okafor left the game to a standing ovation with just under seven minutes remaining. He scored nine points, grabbed 12 boards and ruled the paint with five blocks.
San Antonio never challenged in the second half, losing for only the seventh time this season, with two of those losses as compliments from the Hornets. They were out-rebounded by the Hornets, 57-33.
Only two Spurs players reached double figures, with Splitter scoring 11 and Tony Parker adding 10 points.
New Orleans rained threes on the Spurs, hitting 12 of 15 from beyond the arc. David West had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Thornton also had 18 points and Ariza added 15.
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