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 Spurs ride defense, not Parker, to 5th straight

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PostSubject: Spurs ride defense, not Parker, to 5th straight   Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:36 pm

MINNEAPOLIS(AP) Every season the San Antonio
Spurs start off a little bit slow, leaving many to wonder if the
four-time champions have finally run out of steam.They never
really do, of course. It just takes a little bit longer these days for
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs to get the engine revved up.Parker
didn't have another 55-point night in him, so his Spurs relied on their
defense to notch their fifth straight victory, 98-86 over the Minnesota
Timberwolves on Friday night."Usually it takes us a while,''
coach Gregg Popovich said. "It usually takes us into March and April
before we're really ready to go. I think we're on the right track for
sure.''In his first game back at Target Center since that career
night on Nov. 5 that also included 10 assists, Parker managed 17 points
and nine assists."I still had that in my head, that Tony Parker
scored 55 here,'' said Wolves guard Randy Foye, who had 19 points and
six assists. "I wasn't as aggressive going to the basket and stuff
because I was trying to focus on containing him.''But this is a
different team than the 0-3 Spurs that limped into Target Center more
than a month ago without Manu Ginobili and that trademark nasty defense
that has won them four titles in the last 10 years.Duncan had 17
points and 13 rebounds, and Ginobili added 16 points for the Spurs, who
have their defensive mojo back and are rounding into form.Al
Jefferson had 29 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have
lost eight in a row and three straight since Kevin McHale took over as
coach on Monday."There are times when it's tough out there,
man,'' McHale said. "Anybody's who has played a lot of years knows that
it gets tough. You've got to work your way through it. That's what I
keep on telling them.''After some uncharacteristically poor
efforts to start the season, the Spurs have held 16 of their last 18
opponents under 100 points. Only twice in the last seven games has a
team broken 90.Parker was sensational the last time he was in
this building, hitting a 20-footer at the buzzer to force a second
overtime in a game that San Antonio eventually squeaked out for its
first victory of the season.McHale said Thursday that "it took a
superhuman performance by Tony for those guys to win that game.
Hopefully (Friday night) he'll just be a normal human.''Parker
was just that, but it didn't matter for a Wolves team that let missed
layups and free throws distract them on the defensive end."You
can't get much better than layups and we were missing them,'' McHale
said. "Some of those will go in, but the hanging the head is what we
can't have and that's what happened. I think we started feeling sorry
for ourselves ... and that's unacceptable.''Parker was held
scoreless in the first half and didn't get his first field goal until
there were 11 minutes to play in the game. But that got him going in a
hurry, just in time to dust off the reeling Wolves.The Spurs led
by eight points going into the fourth, and Parker scored San Antonio's
first eight points of the period to take control. He scored 16 points
in the quarter, two nights after the Wolves gave up 33 points in the
third period to Carmelo Anthony in a loss to the Nuggets."I was
trying to not think about it too much,'' Parker said. "So, that's why
in the first half I was trying to get everybody involved and make sure
I am not forcing it. I was expecting good defense from them. In the
second half, I tried to be aggressive and finish them off.''Notes:
Mike Miller played after missing four games with a sprained right
ankle. Miller attempted just one shot in the first half and finished
with three points in 33 minutes. ... The Timberwolves welcomed back
Tony Campbell, fifth on the team's career scoring list. ... The Spurs
had five players in double figures, including 12 points and seven
rebounds from Michael Finley.

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