8:30 PM ET, December 22, 2007
San Antonio, TX
Parker's return pays dividends as Spurs stop undermanned Clips
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs took advantage of the banged-up Los Angeles Clippers, and departed with an injury problem of their own. Tim Duncan had 34 points and a season-high 18 rebounds, and the Spurs beat the undermanned Clippers 99-90 on Saturday night. Tony Parker had 18 points in his first game back since missing four with a sprained left ankle but top reserve Manu Ginobili left in the first quarter with a sprained left index finger.
"His hand's been bothering him for a long time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "The X-rays are all negative, but the ligaments are in bad shape. It's like a sprained thumb, sort of. You keep hitting it and hitting it and it never gets healed. ... He's back to square one."
San Antonio snapped a two-game skid, while the Clippers' losing streak increased to four. The teams play again Jan. 6 when the Spurs visit Los Angeles.
"I think we should take a page out of their book," said Cuttino Mobley, who scored 16 points for Los Angeles. "They move the ball a lot. A lot of randoms. Teams can't think as fast when you go random."
Rookie Al Thornton led the Clippers with 25 points in his second career start. Chris Kaman added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles was down by 14 heading into the final quarter, but cut it to 85-74 with 7:56 left on Quinton Ross' fast-break layup. Kaman followed with a jumper to get Los Angeles within nine.
The Spurs built the lead back up to 14, but an 8-0 Clippers run, starting with a reverse layup by Kaman, made it 92-86 with 1:40 to play.
"The second half our guys really came out and competed," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Duncan's three-point play, plus another pair of free throws with 43 seconds to go, helped put the game out of reach.
"He played great tonight. He was aggressive," Parker said of Duncan. "He went to the basket, got a lot of rebounds, a lot of offensive rebounds. He had a great game."
While the Spurs were slowed by injuries, the Clippers had it far worse. Sam Cassell was back for the first time since Nov. 26 after sitting out with a strained left calf, but Tim Thomas sprained his left knee in the first quarter and left the game. The team said Thomas will undergo an MRI exam on Monday.
Starting forward Corey Maggette also sat out Saturday with a sore right knee.
"I thought he was totally fine last night and today ... I set him in the starting lineup in the meeting and then the trainer this afternoon said he couldn't play," Dunleavy said.
The coach said he was pleased with the Clippers' effort.
"Losing two guys to injuries, a lot of guys would have just folded," he said. "You go through a lot of things physically. You're on a road trip before Christmas. Guys go down. You could easily start feeling sorry for yourself. ... But our guys came out and they really got after it."
Even before Thomas' injury, the Clippers were already missing Shaun Livingston and Elton Brand. Paul Davis also is out indefinitely after hurting his right knee in Friday's loss in Dallas.
Cassell had six points in 9 minutes in his return. Ime Udoka, who logged extra minutes due to Ginobili's early exit Saturday, scored a season-high 17 points. Michael Finley scored 10 for San Antonio.
Tributes to former Spurs player and current Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson played during timeouts Saturday. Johnson's No. 6 was retired in a ceremony following the game. ... The Spurs outscored the Clippers in the paint 52-30. They outrebounded Los Angeles 52-33.