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Duncan leads Spurs past Magic

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SAN ANTONIO — While some debate whether Tim Duncan deserves the spot he was given on the NBA Western Conference All-Star team, the San Antonio Spurs forward quietly excels.

Duncan had 26 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs defeated Orlando 110-103 on Wednesday night, handing the Magic their 10th straight loss.

Forward Kawhi Leonard had 18 points, five assists and four steals for the Spurs. Guard Manu Ginobili chipped in with 13 points and 10 assists.

Duncan converted 11 of 17 shots from the field. He also had a crucial assist down the stretch, finding guard Tony Parker (15 points) for a back-door layup with 2:06 remaining. Parker made another big basket, a 3-pointer, with 22 seconds left.

Less than three months shy of his 39th birthday, Duncan averages 14.8 points and 10 rebounds. He was named as a reserve to the all-star team by a vote of coaches around the league.

“Coaches watch more video than anybody,” Ginobili said. “If they selected him, I’m pretty sure he deserved it. They are the ones who study the game.”

Center Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Vucevic, like Duncan, made 11 of 17 shots from the field. Forward Tobias Harris had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

The Spurs (31-18) brought back all 14 players this season after winning their fifth NBA title last June. But Wednesday marked the first time everyone was supposed to be available at the same time, thanks to the return of Marco Belinelli. The reserve guard missed 19 games during two stretches with groin injuries, including the previous 11.

Leonard, Parker, guard Patty Mills and center Tiago Splitter missed a combined 86 games, most of them because of injuries. Splitter was listed as available for the game against Orlando but did not play.

“He didn’t feel well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Now that the Spurs have all their players, they need to nurse their game back to health.

They led Orlando 51-44 at halftime, but not before allowing the Magic (15-37) to make a 10-0 push and take an 11-point lead. Rookie guard Elfrid Payton (14 points, nine assists) made three straight shots during the Magic’s run.

San Antonio was rescued by its bench, as has often been the case through the years. The Spurs trumped the Magic’s 10-0 run with a 15-0 push bridging the first and second quarters.

Mills made two 3-point baskets late in the first quarter. Ginobili made four assists and a basket during the final five minutes of the quarter.

Harris led an Orlando surge in the third quarter by scoring 10 points. His 3-point basket with 2:32 left gave the Magic a 72-70 lead.

But Belinelli made consecutive treys during the final 1:11, giving the Spurs a 78-74 lead at the end of the quarter. Belinelli made another 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. He finished with 11 points in 17 minutes.

“He gave us more than I expected,” Ginobili said. “It’s great to see him back.”

The Spurs hit 14 of 32 3-pointers, with Parker, Ginobili, Belinelli and Mills making three apiece.

Even so, Orlando hung with them until the end.

“We gave a great effort out there tonight,” Harris said. “We played together, we fought for each other.”

NOTES: Orlando rookie F Aaron Gordon missed the game against San Antonio on Wednesday night with a sore left foot. Gordon, the fourth pick in the 2014 draft out of Arizona, missed 31 games from Nov. 17 to Jan. 14 when the same foot was broken. … San Antonio G Marco Belinelli was cleared to play after missing the previous 11 games with a strained groin. … One good sign for Orlando is the play of rookie G Elfrid Payton, the 10th pick in the draft from Louisiana-Lafayette. Payton leads all rookies in assists with 5.7 per game; nobody else averages more than 3.4. And he ranks second among rookies with 1.5 steals per game. … The Spurs’ game against Orlando was their first of four straight against teams from the Eastern Conference. That might be a good thing. The Spurs’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday was their 14th against Western Conference teams, matching their total from the 2013-14 season.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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