NEW YORK — The newcomers haven't come around as quickly as hoped, causing San Antonio's so-so start to the season.
Good thing the Spurs can rely on their championship trio of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan until the new guys figure it out.
Parker scored 22 points, Ginobili added 17, and they made the key plays in the final minutes to power the Spurs to a 95-88 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
"Down the stretch they know exactly where to go and how to execute," Knicks center David Lee said. "That's from years from playing together. They did that tonight. Parker hit a couple of tough ones down the stretch and so did Ginobili."
Duncan finished with 13 points while being outplayed by Lee, but Parker and Ginobili combined for all of San Antonio's points after the game was tied at 84 with under 3 1/2 minutes remaining. The Spurs won for the eighth time in 10 games following a three-game skid earlier this month.
"David had an excellent game and my shot wasn't falling, but T.P. stepped up, Manu stepped up, we had a lot of guys step up and play well," Duncan said. "So we got enough done to get the win."
Lee matched a season high with 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, but the Knicks finished 3-2 on their five-game homestand after losing the last two. Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington each scored 19.
The Knicks held an opponent under 100 points for the 10th straight time, the first time they've done that since a 19-game stretch from Feb. 18-March 26, 2001. But they wasted that effort with another poor night from the perimeter, going 2 for 16 from 3-point range.
"We're playing a really good team that's playing well, so you've got to give them credit, but at the same time we missed two fouls shots, missed a layup (and) wide-open 3s," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "If you don't make those against this team, you're not going to have many chances to beat them."
Expected to be one of the league's top teams after bringing in players such as Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess during a busy offseason, the Spurs instead started slowly, with coach Gregg Popovich admitting it's taken his team longer than he hoped to grasp his system. They were only 9-9 following their three-game losing streak, but are now 17-11 and usually play better in the second half of the season.
"The whole season is about jelling for us, try to adapt to all the new guys," Parker said. "We changed more than half of the team, so it'll take some time.
"It's different, because we've got a lot of new guys and everybody's trying to do the right thing, trying to play unselfish, and moving the ball and I think it will take some time. But I think we're going to the right direction. I think we're on the right track."
Ginobili snapped an 84-all tie with a long jumper with 3:25 remaining — it was originally called a 3-pointer but overturned by video review — and after Chris Duhon missed a pair of free throws, Parker and Ginobili scored on drives to the basket to make it 90-84 with 2:12 remaining. Parker answered Lee's basket by converting a three-point play, extending it to 93-86 with 1:06 to go.
Ginobili added a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to go as the Spurs pulled out their second victory in less than 24 hours, having won at Milwaukee on Saturday night. The victory delighted the many international fans who turned out to support Parker and Ginobili, with Parker waving to a large group of cheering fans after completing an interview on the court after the game.
"I'm very happy with the way I played the last two games and the way the team played," Ginobili said. "It's going to be a nice trip home."
The Knicks need to win their final two games, at Detroit and New Jersey, for their first 10-win month since going 10-8 in January 2003.
The Spurs took a 21-20 lead after the first quarter, then began to solve the Knicks' defense in the second. San Antonio shot 65 percent in that period, but Lee made all seven shots for 14 first-half points and the Spurs led only 50-47 at the break.
New York got the first basket of the third quarter before the Spurs ran off nine straight points to take the game's first double-digit lead at 59-49. The Knicks caught up by the middle of the period and the lead seesawed from there, with Ginobili's 3-pointer with 9 seconds left giving San Antonio a 70-68 edge entering the fourth.
Asked for his take on a schedule that had the Spurs tipping off in New York less than 24 hours after the start of their game in Milwaukee, Popovich said: "It makes a lot of sense. I think that any team that can get in night before a back-to-back, go to bed at 4 or 4:30 in the morning, then play at 6 the next day, I think that's a good thing. I think more of us should do that. Really puts a good product out on the floor. … The Knicks' 93-87 loss to Miami on Christmas earned a 2.0 overnight rating on ESPN, a 33 percent increase over the New Orleans-Orlando matchup in the same time slot last year. … The last two matchups in New York had gone to overtime, each team winning once.
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