When San Antonio Spurs star center Tim Duncan fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, it appeared the New Orleans Pelicans might end their losing streak with a huge victory.
But Duncan’s battle-tested teammates picked up the slack and got key stops and some big baskets down the stretch as the Spurs turned back the Pelicans 101-95 on Monday night at the New Orleans Arena.
“We were in a tight spot, but we’re used to playing at a high level and were able to pull it out,” said Gregg Popovich, who has coached San Antonio to four NBA titles. “It’s nice to see.”
With tough home games Wednesday vs. Houston and Saturday against Golden State, it was the sixth consecutive loss for the Pelicans (15-22), who continue to play without Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, all injured.
The loss obscured 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots by Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. Point guard Brian Roberts, starting in Holiday’s place, had 19 points.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker had 27 points and seven assists. His drives to the basket were a big reason San Antonio shot 52.2 percent and attempted 31 free throws, making 26. The Pelicans shot 43.7 percent and had just 17 free throws, making 10.
Duncan, who hadn’t fouled out since Jan. 20, 2010, had 18 points and nine rebounds.
“We had our chances tonight, and we just didn’t execute down the stretch,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We had three costly turnovers in the last few minutes of the game against a team like that. It just didn’t go our way.”
The victory was the fifth in a row for San Antonio (30-8), which has the best record in the Western Conference.
With the Pelicans breathing down their necks, the Spurs got two 3-pointers down the stretch, the final one by Kawhi Leonard with 2:03 left that gave them a 97-93 lead.
Parker drove for a basket with 43.5 seconds left, keeping the lead at four. Then, after Roberts’ 3-point attempt went in and out, super sub Manu Ginobili sealed the victory with two free throws with 20 seconds left.
“They just hit some big shots,” Davis said. “(Parker) pretty much was driving and hitting open teammates. Leonard hit a big shot, (Marco) Belinelli hit one before that, and we missed one. And I had a turnover.”
Just when it appeared the Spurs had taken control for good, the Pelicans came back behind Davis.
Belinelli sank a 3-pointer that gave San Antonio an 86-77 lead at 9:45 of the fourth. The Pelicans’ Darius Miller answered with a 3, and Austin Rivers followed with one on the next trip. Al-Farouq Aminu missed a jumper, but Davis slammed home the rebound, bringing the Pelicans within a point of the lead.
After Davis’ defense caused Duncan to miss a layup, he drove against the Hall of Famer, scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but New Orleans led 87-86.
Duncan fouled out with 6:02 left, sending Eric Gordon to the line. He made the first free throw but missed the second, leaving the Pelicans trailing 89-88.
Gordon, who entered the game with three consecutive games of at least 20 points, scored 12 on 4-of-14 shooting. He had nine points in the first half, and his drives to the basket were effective. Popovich switched Leonard on him, and that kept Gordon in check.