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San Antonio Spurs improve home start to record 38-0

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
San Antonio Spurs improve home start to record 38-0
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher | License Photo

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs soared through their first 76 games of the regular season, setting team and league marks with almost every win they recorded in the past month of a benchmark campaign.

All that will mean nothing, the Spurs testify, if there is not a championship added to the list of the accolades and milestones.

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Manu Ginobili scored 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter to help San Antonio put the game away, and the Spurs beat the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 100-92 Wednesday to remain unbeaten at home.

The Spurs fashioned a 22-9 run that bridged the final two minutes of the second quarter and the first six of the third that expanded their lead to 60-45 and waylaid any chance of a New Orleans upset.

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With the victory, San Antonio (63-13) tied a franchise record for wins in a season. The mark was set in the 2005-06 campaign, when the Spurs went 63-19.

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The Spurs are 38-0 at the AT&T Center this season, supplanting the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the longest home winning streak to start a season in NBA history.

"It doesn't mean anything," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the home win streak. "Absolutely nothing -- maybe a cup of coffee."

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San Antonio has won a franchise-best 47 consecutive regular-season games at home since a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 12, 2015. The Spurs' streak is the second longest in NBA history, trailing only the continuing run of victories at home by the Golden State Warriors (54).

San Antonio has already clinched the Southwest Division and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with seven regular-season games to play.

Asked if going undefeated at home is important, Spurs guard Tony Parker echoed Popovich in saying it didn't matter to him.

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"We are trying to win a championship," Parker said. "It doesn't really matter how many games we win because at the end of the day all you remember is how many championships you've won."

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Does Parker wish the playoffs started sooner?

"Tomorrow," he said. "We have to focus on getting ready for the playoffs. We need to work on our execution and not take anything for granted. We need to play good defense and tend to the little things that make a big difference."

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green added 16 points apiece for the Spurs, and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 points while shooting just 3-for-11 from the floor. Thirteen players saw the floor for San Antonio, and 12 of them scored.

New Orleans suited up just nine players, but seven of them scored in double figures.

Alexis Ajinca led the Pelicans (27-47) with 18 points. Jordan Hamilton scored 14, and James Ennis (who was signed to a 10-day contract on Wednesday and arrived at the arena at 6:15 p.m. from Iowa) added 13 points. Toney Douglas hit for 12 points, Tim Frazer scored 11, and Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt added 10 points apiece for New Orleans.

The Spurs opened the game with their normal starting five for the first time in a week after resting Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Aldridge and Green and giving Leonard time to heal from a right quad contusion that kept him out two contests.

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Popovich said it looked as if Leonard hadn't missed a beat.

"He's ready to go -- we just limited his minutes tonight just to make sure that everything's OK," Popovich said of Leonard's 22 minutes. "He'll probably get back to normal on Saturday, minutes-wise."

New Orleans' ragtag lineup kept pace with the Spurs for the first quarter, holding the lead twice before a step-back jumper by Boris Diaw with 0.8 seconds remaining in the quarter granted San Antonio a 27-26 advantage.

The Spurs made 10 of their 19 shots in the period while New Orleans kept pace, shooting 50 percent and hitting four of its five 3-point attempts.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was assessed a technical foul midway through the second quarter after vociferously disagreeing on a non-call under the Spurs' basket.

Both teams were putrid in the second quarter, but the Spurs were less so, taking a 46-39 lead to halftime. San Antonio hit only five of its 19 shots in the period (26.3 percent) while the Pelicans were just 5-for-20 from the field and committed seven turnovers. Leonard had 14 points at the half to lead all scorers, while Douglas led New Orleans with 12 points.

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The Spurs outscored New Orleans 27-16 in the third quarter (and 46-29 in the second and third quarters) and built a 73-55 lead through three. Green had eight points in the third and 16 through the first 36 minutes.

"Our guys have been playing extremely hard, and we never gave in," Gentry said. "We never stopped trying. We were trying to make up a lot of what we are doing out there as we went along. We gave a great effort against a great team. We did all the right stuff and competed at the highest level we could."

The Pelicans made a final run at San Antonio in the fourth quarter, cutting the Spurs' lead to nine points in four different instances, the final time on a 3-pointer by Ennis with 4:39 to play. However, Ginobili hit a 3-pointer, added a driving layup off a nifty assist by Kyle Anderson and poured in another trey and a free throw to put the game out of reach.

"We are trying to win no matter what -- we are looking for a different motivation to push us to win each game," Ajinca said. "It doesn't matter if we have five guys, six guys or seven guys -- we are still going to play as hard as we can. San Antonio made a couple of tough shots at the end, and that made the difference."

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NOTES: The Spurs improved to 3-1 against the Pelicans this season. ... Spurs F David West was originally selected by New Orleans in the first round (18th overall) in the 2003 draft. He spent eight years in New Orleans, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 530 games. ... San Antonio has trailed for only 11 minutes and 13 seconds in 444 minutes played in fourth quarters at home this season. ... In three games against San Antonio this season, Pelicans F Ryan Anderson averaged 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. He didn't play Wednesday due to a sports hernia... Pelicans G Jrue Holiday recorded 20-plus points in 20 of his past 28 contests before he was ruled out for the season Tuesday due to a facial injury.

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