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Duncan, Spurs rally past Bucks

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SAN ANTONIO — The Milwaukee Bucks did not look like a team playing its second game in as many nights early in Sunday’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs.

The visitors were the ones hitting shots early, enjoying a big lead and giving the defending champions plenty of reasons to be worried after the first half.

Everything changed late in the third quarter.

The Spurs outscored the Bucks 22-12 in the third and went on to post a 101-95 victory.

Forward Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 20 points. Forward Boris Diaw added 14 points off the bench, and forward Kawhi Leonard tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds to help the Spurs earn their fifth consecutive home victory.

San Antonio (29-17) won for the sixth time in seven games overall.

“You gotta hope that defensively, if you stay solid enough that something will turn,” Duncan said. “And luckily it did.”

Milwaukee trailed 97-95 in the final minute, but guard Jerryd Bayless missed a floater, and Spurs guard Tony Parker then knocked down two free throws to seal the win.

The Bucks (22-22) couldn’t continue its hot start to the game, and the Spurs were able to fix their early shooting woes.

Forward Khris Middleton, who played college basketball a few hours away at Texas A&M, paced the Bucks with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

The Bucks were on top by as many as 12 points in the first half and were still ahead by 10 in the third quarter before San Antonio rallied.

Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said his team’s inability to take care of the ball allowed the Spurs to swing the point margin in their favor.

“In the third quarter, we turned the ball over,” Kidd said. “We’re playing the world champs. We know that they’re going to make a run. They take control of the game, but we had a chance.”

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili’s basket in the final minute of the third quarter gave the Spurs a 67-65 lead before the Bucks tied it again on a bucket by guard Jared Dudley. On the next trip down the court, Leonard knocked down two free throws to give the Spurs the lead for good.

Leonard went to the locker room in the first quarter due to what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was a tweaked ankle. It was a momentary scare for the Spurs because Leonard was out of the lineup from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14 because of a bruised left hand. He also missed a game earlier in the season because of an eye infection.

Leonard scored 15 of his 19 points during the Spurs’ second-half rally.

“He’s basically missed the season, with the eye and his hand, but he’s starting to get his rhythm and figure out where his spots are, and he is taking advantage of it,” Popovich said.

San Antonio earned a home win Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, then had Saturday off. The Bucks, meanwhile, came in fresh off a win in Milwaukee against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

Milwaukee forced the Spurs to play from behind for most of the first half. The Bucks scored 16 straight points in the midst of a 20-2 run and to take a 24-12 lead late in the first quarter. The Bucks shot 57.5 percent to offset 12 turnovers in the first half, and they led 55-47 at the break.

“I think everybody fought and gave everything they had,” Kidd said. “We had a back-to-back and we’re playing against the world champs asking for a chance to win or tie, and we had that chance.”

NOTES: Spurs F Tim Duncan is one game shy of tying Mark Jackson (1,296) for 15th on the league’s all-time games-played list. … Spurs G Marco Belinelli sat out another game because of a strained left groin. Belinelli, who is averaging 9.7 points and 23.8 minutes per game this season, has been out since Jan. 10. … Milwaukee lost for the fifth consecutive visit to San Antonio. The Bucks’ last road win over the Spurs came in 2008. … Bucks C Larry Sanders served the fourth game of a 10-game suspension. Sanders was penalized for a second time in his career for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. Prior to the suspension, he missed 11 games because of illness and personal reasons.

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

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