NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The annual rodeo road trip is turning into a laugher for the San Antonio Spurs, and leaving no doubt who’s the NBA’s best team heading into the All-Star break.
Manu Ginobili scored 10 of his 22 points in a game-breaking, second-half run and the Spurs put in another dominant performance with a 102-85 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
The victory in the penultimate game of the nine-game road trip (6-2) was the second straight rout for the Spurs and gave them nine wins in 11 games and 17 in 20.
“They’re feeling a few bumps and bruises, but they’re character guys,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the lengthy trip that started in Portland and which will end in Chicago on Thursday. “They’re professionals, and they know what’s expected of them. They know where they want to be at the end of the year and they’re working towards that. So no game can be left without trying to get better.”
That’s been the story for Spurs since the start of the season. Their 46-9 record is tops in the NBA and the best 55-game mark since the Avery Johnson-coached Dallas Mavericks had the same mark in 2006-07 en route to a franchise-best, 67-win season.
“We just have to stay focused, that’s going to be the main thing for us,” said point guard Tony Parker, who had 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists. “Focus on defense, we have a lot of room for improvement. Even if I think we’re on the right track, I think we can do a lot of stuff better and we just have to stay motivated because we have to get all those wins and make sure we take advantage of our good start.”
Putting the Wizards and Nets away early in the past two games has allowed Popovich to rest Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. Duncan, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Parker did not play in the fourth quarter, and Ginobili iced the game in his brief four-minute stint.
“I was kind of shocked, not that we won or we played well, but that at the kind of effort and hustle in the third and fourth quarter,” Ginobili said. “We played hard and rotated very well, went hard to the rebounds so it was a very complete second half for us.”
Brook Lopez had 11 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Nets, who never led in the final roughly 30 minutes.
Travis Outlaw also had 11 points and Devin Harris and Jordan Farmar added 10 apiece for the Nets, who were held to 35 percent shooting from the field.
If the game did anything for the Nets, it certainly gave them a glimpse of how a good team should play.
“They’ve been doing it for years,” Harris said. “They’ve been playing together for years. They know one another extremely well. They are battle tested. What makes them so impressive is they don’t really care who scores. They move the ball and whoever gets the open shot, so be it. That’s what makes them so good.”
The Spurs never trailed after Duncan returned to the court early in the second period with the Nets ahead 34-31. A basket by Quinton Ross pushed the New Jersey lead to 36-31 with 9:08 to play in the half.
After that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili took over, helping San Antonio close the half with a 28-12 spurt that gave it a 59-48 lead.
Duncan hit two baskets inside early in the run, with the second on a pick and roll with Parker putting the Spurs ahead for good at 37-36.
Parker had six points in the quarter, the last three coming on a back-breaking three-point play after he drove through the Nets’ defense seconds after Sasha Vujacic hit a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left in the quarter. George Hill also had six points in the spurt.
“It’s kind of deflating at halftime, knowing you have up a play that really changed the complexion of the half,” Harris said.
New Jersey made a run late in the third quarter, drawing within 72-66 on a rebound follow by Lopez with 1:47 to play.
Former Net Richard Jefferson then set up 3-pointers by Gary Neal and Hill around two free throws by Ginobili for an 80-66 lead after three quarters.
Ginobili scored the first eight points of the final quarter for the Spurs, hitting two long 3-pointers to help open a 88-68 lead that had the coaches clearing the benches.
“This is a terrific team we played,” said Johnson, who is trying to rebuild the Nets, who had the NBA’s worst record last season. “They have the best record in the league for a reason. They don’t beat themselves. They’re pros. They go about their business and they’re very methodical in their approach.”
NOTES: The Spurs are 34-3 when scoring 100 or more points and 38-0 when outshooting their opponents from the field this season. …Nets rookie Derrick Favors picked up four fouls in eight minutes in the first half. …Outlaw showed what kind of night it was for the Nets, missing a wide open dunk attempt in the third quarter. …San Antonio outrebounded New Jersey 50-39 and outscored them 40-28 in the paint.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)