SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Spurs' Big Three came through. Now they have to win one on the road to keep their title defense alive. Manu Ginobili scored 25 points, Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Tony Parker added 15 points in the Spurs' 99-80 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 6 on Thursday night.
San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker, left, of France, Manu Ginobili, of Argentina, and Tim Duncan, right, laugh on the bench during the fourth quarter in Game 6 of an NBA Western Conference semifinal basketball series against the New Orleans Hornets, Thursday, May 15, 2008, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 99-80, evening the series at three games apiece.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The win forced a seventh game in the Western Conference semifinals on Monday in New Orleans. Home teams are 20-1 in the second round.
Chris Paul led the Hornets with 21 points and Tyson Chandler scored 14. David West had 10 points before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter after apparently aggravating a back injury.
The aging defending champions and the injured Hornets now get three days of rest before playing Game 7.
"I have confidence," Parker said. "We've won a lot of big games on the road."
Despite the closeness of the series, Game 6, like the five before it, was won by double digits. It was also won, like those before it, in the third quarter, when the Spurs outscored the Hornets 20-12.
"I don't know what to say," Paul said. "That third quarter was ugly."
The Spurs took the lead for good after Parker's jumper with 4:27 left in the first quarter broke a 17-all tie. They led by as many as 24.
The Spurs hit 11 of 21 3-pointers, led by six from Ginobili. The Hornets had just two 3s. But the Hornets had 48 points in the paint to just 28 from the Spurs.
The Spurs shot 49 percent from the field (38-of-77) to the Hornets' 41 percent (33-of-80) and outrebounded them 45-40. The Spurs had 28 assists and the Hornets had 13.
"Thank God we get to go back to New Orleans for Game 7," Paul said.
The Spurs came out with desperate energy, shooting 71 percent in the first quarter. They led by as many as 13 in the opening period after Bruce Bowen's 3-pointer made it 36-23. The Spurs took a 36-24 lead into the second quarter.
In the second period it was the Hornets who heated up — albeit to a lesser extent. Paul scored 10 points in the quarter, though Ginobili countered with three 3s.
The Spurs maintained a double-digit lead early in the second period before the Hornets started chipping away.
Chandler's dunk off an alley-oop pass from Paul brought New Orleans within 46-41 with 5:35 to play. The Hornets got within 55-49 and the Spurs were up 58-51 at halftime.
In the third — the quarter that has been pivotal in just about every game in this series — the Hornets got into quick foul trouble. Paul picked up consecutive offensive fouls, his third and fourth, and West picked up his second and third, all in a span of 1:05.
Then West picked up his fourth foul and, visibly upset about it, also got a technical with 8:44 to play.
West did not score again in the quarter, but Paul kept his composure, hitting another layup and jumper and feeding Chandler for two more dunks.
After Chandler's second slam, which brought the Hornets within 71-63, they didn't score for the last 4:44 of the period and the Spurs pulled away.
Duncan sank a shot over Chandler, then hit a layup and pumped his fist after Ime Udoka blocked Paul's layup attempt. Duncan was fouled but couldn't convert the three-point play.
It didn't matter. The Spurs were firmly in control and Ginobili's back-to-back 3s to start the fourth quarter gave San Antonio an 84-63 lead and put away the game.
With 10:11 left in the game, West left the court after aggravating a back injury.
West, who played with back pain in Game 5, fell to the floor after being picked from behind by Spurs forward Robert Horry, who was called for an offensive foul. Laying face down on the floor, West put his left arm behind him and rested it on his lower back before going to the locker room.
Notes:@ Spurs C Fabricio Oberto started for the Spurs. Oberto started the first two playoff games before Spurs coach Gregg Popovich switched to Kurt Thomas for the next eight. ... Texas Gov. Rick Perry was at the game, sitting next to Spurs owner Peter Holt. ... Udoka scored 13 off the bench for San Antonio. Peja Stojakovic scored 13 for New Orleans.