Spurs earn first victory behind vintage Duncan performance


October 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets power forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) and power forward Boris Diaw (33) during the first quarter of a game at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

With 2:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, a 13 time All-Star and 19-year-old phenom exchanged buckets. If you didn’t know any better, you would not be able to tell who was the aged veteran and the unheralded rookie.

This year’s No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and 16-year veteran Tim Duncan scored 13 consecutive points in the final two minutes before Tony Parker added a 3-pointer with 49.6 seconds remaining that propelled the Spurs to a 99-95 victory.

Davis scored eight of his team-high 21 points in the final frame. The rookie was generally matched up against Boris Diaw and occassionally Stephen Jackson before eventually checking Duncan in the final quarter. He didn’t necessarily impede Duncan, whose 24 points were a game-high, but he was a tough match for the Spurs’ defense. In the final three minutes alone, he drew four free throws.

It was an impressive showing against one of the most imposing interior players in the league. But, in the end, it was Duncan who paced his team in scoring and rebounding. He also blocked three shots — something Davis will do often this season, having averaged nearly five blocks per game at Kentucky last year — making it difficult for would be penetrators.

Duncan was joined by Parker, who finished with 23 points off 9-of-19 shooting. Parker scored 10 points in the first quarter and knocked down the critical shot that turned the one-point deficit into a two-point margin. Though he only made 14 3-pointers in the regular season last season, Parker did not hesitate as the Hornets defense was out of position.

The Hornets struggled from the field (43.8 percent shooting) but behind Davis’ nine free throw attempts, all of which he made, last season’s 28th-ranked offense looked markedly improved.

Their offense eventually went back down to earth after making nearly 60 percent of their attempts in the first quarter. This can be partially attributed to a focused defensive effort from the Spurs, partcularly in the second half.

In a stretch during the third quarter, Kawhi Leonard parlayed a couple of Hornets turnovers into 11 consecutive points. The Spurs were causing New Orleans into making decisions early into the shot clock. The decisions they made just weren’t very good. At the end of the third period, the Spurs had scored 28 points, six off turnovers, and the game was tied.

The game was knotted up nine times alone in the final period. The efforts of Davis should be noted but it wasn’t enough to prevent Duncan from deftly influencing the game.

If anything, Davis should take tonight as a first-hand example of how to dominate a game. Through postioninig and savvy, and not merely athleticism, Duncan exerted enough control to impact the final result.

That is something Davis will learn. But it will take time — perhaps a lot of time, actually.

Dusting off the kinks: After shooting 26.5 percent from the field in six exhibition games, Kawhi Leonard erased any doubt with a diverse stat line — 19 points, seven rebounds and five steals in 34 minutes. He made a couple of corner 3-pointers and was aggressive away from the ball.

3-point shooting: Neither team shot well from behind the arc but the Spurs, last season’s top-ranked 3-point shooting team, were particularly poor. They missed 14 of 20 attempts and if not for Leonard’s three 3-pointers, they would have been much worse.

Aminu plays well? The third-year swingman hasn’t done anything to inspire a surplus of confidence. Aminu, formerly an intriguing piece in the Chris Paul trade, scored 17 points, most of which came in transition, while making eight of his 16 attempts.

Next opponent: The Oklahoma City Thunder, who eliminated these Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, will return to the AT&T Center for the first time tomorrow. The game will tip-off at 8:30 p.m and will be televised nationally on TNT. The Spurs will also don their new alternate uniforms.