Friday , Dec , 12 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

Spurs starting to play like champs again

(Sports Network) – You knew it was just a matter of time, but the San Antonio
Spurs are finally starting to resemble the team that took home the NBA title
last season.

With an ugly 71-67 victory over their fellow Lone Star State inhabitants, the
Houston Rockets last night, the Spurs stretched their winning streak to a
season-high five games and improved to 14-10 on the season. San Antonio also
moved a half-game back of Dallas, Houston, and Denver for the top spot in the
tightly contested Midwest Division, as all seven teams in the division are
separated by just one game.

Things had gotten so bad for the defending champs, that they actually dropped
below .500 following a 90-86 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers back on December
3, which was also the last time the team tasted defeat. It was the latest in a
season that the Spurs had been below the break-even mark since December 1996,
six months before they selected Tim Duncan with the top overall pick.

What can be attributed to the team’s recent turnaround? In a word…Duncan.

The two-time defending league MVP has been a man possessed since serving a
one-game suspension for making contact with an NBA official in Golden State on
November 29

In his six games since sitting out, the 7-footer has recorded double-doubles
in each contest, while averaging 25.8 points a game to go along with 14
rebounds a contest. Included in that was a phenomenal 47 point, 12 rebound
effort against the Orlando Magic to jump-start the team’s current five-game
tear.

On Thursday it was again Duncan who led the way, as Sports Illustrated’s co-
Sportsman of the Year recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds in the defensive
battle.

“Their guys did one heck of a job on me the entire game,” Duncan said. “They
contested every shot and blocked a bunch of them. It seemed like there were
three or four guys around me the entire night.”

San Antonio scored just 30 points in the first half and combined with the
Rockets’ 25 at the break, the teams combined for the fewest two-team total at
the half since the shot clock was introduced in the 1954-55 season.

“It was two heavyweight fighters punching it out,” the Spurs’ Robert Horry
said. “It was ugly for the fans, but we like it like that.”

San Antonio could get even closer to first on Saturday when they close a home-
and-home set against the Rockets at the SBC Center.

SAN