“It was great to have Tony (Parker) and Tim (Duncan) back. And then we just fed off of them,” said San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair after his team closed their Rodeo Road Trip with a 114-99 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
It was a major plus to have both Parker and Duncan back, but Blair was the story of the night as he tied his career high with 28 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spurs. After their one game of rest, Parker returned with 16 points and 12 assists, while Duncan was the enforcer on defense with 18 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks.
Defense helped the Spurs create their stamp on the game, as the Spurs held the Nuggets to just 15 points (5/17 shooting) in the first quarter. The Spurs used a 19-1 run to get a 16-point lead on top of the Nuggets, as the Spurs went into the second quarter leading 31-15. Blair, Duncan, and Danny Green (16 points) combined for 20 points in the first quarter.
Blair continued his dominance as he scored eight points in the second quarter and the Spurs shot 50% (9/18) from behind the arc in the first half. The rout had begun as the Spurs once lead by 28-points, as they took a dominating 65-39 lead into halftime. The Spurs had another explosion on offense as Blair, Green, and Matt Bonner (12 points) contributed with 22 of the team’s 34 points in the second quarter.
The Spurs kept their lead in the upper twenties until the Nuggets went on a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter to cut the Spurs’ lead down to 18 points. Blair, Parker, and Duncan held off the Nuggets’ charge with 18 of the Spurs’ 27 points. The Nuggets however scored 33 points on the Spurs in the third quarter and the Spurs took a 92-72 lead going into the final quarter.
Denver forward Corey Brewer went haywire in the second half as he scored all of his team high 23 points in the third and fourth quarters. Denver began the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run that would eventually lead to the Spurs’ lead getting chipped down to 12 points. Richard Jefferson (17 points) countered the Denver offensive attacks with three point barrages as he made 5-of-7 three pointers in the game. Though the Spurs were outscored 60-49 in the second half, they were able to hold on for the victory.
After the game, Duncan spoke about Blair’s dominant performance, “He finds a way to score the ball,” said Duncan, “he’s like a magnet to that ball.”
Rookie Kawhi Leonard only played two minutes of action and scored his only attempted basket. Leonard was pulled from the game in the first half with calf tightness. After the game, Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News said via twitter, Leonard was still going to take part in the Rising Stars game on Friday in Orlando.
Gary Neal only played 17 minutes, as it seems he was also hobbled as well according to Jefferson, “Kawhi got hurt, and Gary (Neal) tightened up.”
The season has reached its annual halfway point as the Spurs head into All-Star break. The team finishes the first half of the season at 24-10. The team was able to rebound its road record to a much more respectable record of 11-9. And for the teams second time in franchise history, the Spurs finished the Rodeo Road Trip with an 8-1 record.
Leonard and Parker are the only two Spurs players who will take part in the All-Star activities this weekend. Leonard will play Friday in the Rising Stars game, and Parker will play Sunday in the 2011-2012 NBA All-Star game.
The team will return to action next Wednesday at home as they host the Chicago Bulls in their first game back from All-Star break.