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Spurs hand Knicks 10th consecutive defeat

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Updated 12 months ago on
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SAN ANTONIO — A strained hamstring. A bruised hand. A couple of faded birth certificates.

The San Antonio Spurs, missing their top four players, handed the New York Knicks a 10th consecutive defeat Wednesday, 109-95.

Spurs guard Tony Parker missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Forward Kawhi Leonard was out after sustaining a hand injury Tuesday in game at Utah. Forward Tim Duncan, 38, and guard Manu Ginobili, 37, were given the night off to rest by coach Gregg Popovich, who recently called San Antonio’s December schedule crowded with seven back-to-backs — the first started on Nov. 30 — “ridiculous.”

New York (4-20) was short-handed as well. Forward Carmelo Anthony sat out with a sore left knee, and reserve guard J.R. Smith missed the game with a sore left heel.

San Antonio (16-6) dismissed the Knicks with a 16-0 push in the third quarter that increased its lead to 25 points.

Reserve guard Marco Belinelli led the Spurs with 22 points. Belinelli made three of the Spurs’ six 3-point baskets in the third quarter, when they outscored New York 38-21.

“I just thought the Spurs came out and played at a high level in the third quarter that we couldn’t match,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “We had a few minutes where it got away from us and the Spurs capitalized on it.”

Guard Danny Green scored 13 for the Spurs, and forward Boris Diaw had 12. Other Spurs received rare substantial playing time. Rookie Kyle Anderson started in place of Leonard, played 23 minutes, and converted four of five shots. Forward Jeff Ayres played 19 minutes, made all five of his shots, and led the Spurs with six rebounds. Forward Austin Daye worked 21 minutes and hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half.

“I haven’t been this pleased in a while,” Popovich said. “Guys who haven’t played are gonna try hard. After a night like we had last night (a loss at Utah) it was good for them to basically show the starters how you have to bring it, both execution wise and competitively. It was a good win. I want them to enjoy it.”

Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 23 points. Center Jason Smith scored 14.

The Spurs did receive some good news Wednesday. Center Tiago Splitter was cleared to play after missing 20 of the team’s first 21 games due to a calf injury. He entered in the third quarter after Aron Baynes, the starter at center Wednesday, picked up his fourth foul. Splitter played eight minutes and scored three points.

San Antonio took a 56-52 halftime lead with its makeshift lineup, somehow managing to commit just one turnover while shooting 46.5 percent. Daye, normally third string, played 13 minutes in the half and made a pair of 3-point baskets.

The Knicks shot 57 percent in the half, easily maneuvering inside for 22 points in the paint.

For the game, the Spurs shot 50.7 percent and the Knicks hit 48.7 percent.

Forward Matt Bonner, a part-time starter recently with Splitter out, said the Spurs had to summon a cohesive effort with their most talented players missing.

“We all understood that if we wanted to get a good shot we had to move the ball,” said Bonner, who scored 10 points. “We couldn’t hold the ball. We had to share it, move it, push the pace.”

The Spurs are often praised by opponents for a system that encourages and demands teamwork. Point guard Cory Joseph, Parker’s replacement, said that approach helps on a night like Wednesday.

“We have a pretty good system,” said Joseph, who produced nine points and six assists. “I play with these guys every day. The lineup may be a little different but we practice together. I know what guys are gonna do.”

NOTES: San Antonio Spurs F Kawhi Leonard (bruised right hand) will have an MRI exam Thursday to determine the extent of the injury, coach Gregg Popovich said. … Spurs G Tony Parker missed his third straight game with a mild left hamstring strain. “I don’t expect him to miss too much more,” Popovich said. … Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony sat out because of a sore left knee that has bothered him for a while. “It’s not getting any worse. It’s not getting any better,” Anthony told reporters Tuesday in New Orleans, where the Knicks lost to the Pelicans.

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