DeJuan Blair kept the San Antonio Spurs in the game and finished with a team-high 23 points, Tim Duncan scored on two key baskets down the stretch as the Spurs rallied just in time to avoid an embarrassing loss to the short-handed New Orleans Hornets.
San Antonio trailed by a point twice in the final two minutes, but Duncan responded each time, atoning for a lackluster game by making two free throws and tipping in a missed shot with 1:19 left to give the Spurs the lead for good and won the game 89-86.
“New Orleans was more efficient than we were and executed better than we did,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “So we just had to hang in there and keep plugging. That is probably the best thing we did was keep on pushing, and at the end of the game it worked out. We were fortunate.”
Jarrett Jack had 27 points for the Hornets, but only had two points in the fourth quarter. He also committed a costly turnover and missed a driving layup in the final 32.7 seconds.
“I was just trying to make a play at the basket,” he said. “My legs were kind of tired. I tried to muster it up there, and I just didn’t have enough steam to get it up on the glass.”
Duncan finished with 13 points and seven rebounds but was only 4-of-11 from the field. Popovich said before the victory he probably would rest Duncan when the Spurs host Philadelphia on Sunday in their third game in three days.
New Orleans had one final chance to tie after the Spurs’ Danny Green missed two free throws with 2.3 seconds left, but Marco Belinelli threw up an air ball in traffic after catching an inbounds pass.
Tony Parker had 12 points and 10 assists for San Antonio, and Stephen Jackson added 14 points.
The Spurs played without Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal who are all resting because of minor injuries.
Carl Landry had 15 points for the Hornets, who also missed three starters from their win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
After Duncan’s tip-in, Green took a wild pass from Parker and hit a contested baseline jumper to give San Antonio an 89-86 lead in the final minute.
The Hornets shot 5-of-18 in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs are 3-0 against the Hornets but won by just two points in their other trip to New Orleans last January.
“We’ve had tough times both times we have been here,” Popovich said. “I don’t think any staff, players or organization has had as difficult circumstances as them, and they continue to play hard every game. It’s pretty impressive. It’s nice to see.”
The Hornets were without center Chris Kaman (sick), forward Trevor Ariza (sprained ankle) and Jason Smith, who served the first of a two-game suspension for a flagrant 2 foul Thursday on the Clippers’ Blake Griffin.
Blair carried the Spurs early, scoring 12 of their first 18 points and finishing the first half with 16. All but two of his points came on layups or putbacks.
“He does what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s got great hands and he hits the boards hard. He’s real clever around the bucket.” Jack had 17 points in the first half.
San Antonio signed Justin Dentmon out of the NBA Development League earlier Saturday to back up Parker. Dentmon scored two points in six minutes of action.
The Spurs will host the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow night at the AT&T Center for their third game of back-to-back-backs.