Spurs Top Lakers; Duncan Hurts Left Knee

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Tim Duncan sat out the last 15 1/2 minutes after hyperextending his left knee during the San Antonio Spurs' 103-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, but doesn't

Friday, February 4th 2005, 6:55 am

By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Tim Duncan sat out the last 15 1/2 minutes after hyperextending his left knee during the San Antonio Spurs' 103-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, but doesn't think he'll miss any more playing time.

``It feels pretty good,'' Duncan said afterward. ``It'll be all right.''

That's a relief for his coaches and teammates. They could only watch helplessly and hope for the best after Duncan started grabbing his knee and writhing in pain. Fortunately, it appears that's what they got.

``When it's your best player, that makes you think a whole lot of things,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

``Very scary, very scary,'' San Antonio's Tony Parker said. ``He's our star. That's the main guy for us.''

The Spurs don't play again until Tuesday night, giving Duncan time to rest and recuperate.

The game was the first for the Lakers since Rudy Tomjanovich resigned as coach, citing health concerns. Frank Hamblen, Tomjanovich's replacement, lobbied for the return of Phil Jackson earlier in the day.

In other games, Miami beat Cleveland 100-88 and the Los Angeles Clippers topped Memphis 106-103.

Parker had 22 points and nine assists, and Malik Rose came off the bench for season-high totals of 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who blew most of a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter with Duncan on the bench before going on a 10-5 run to finish the game.

Duncan was injured with 8:40 left before halftime in a collision with Caron Butler. Duncan sat out the rest of the second quarter, but started the second half and had nine points and five rebounds in the third quarter before coming out for good with 3:39 to play in the period.

``Once I took him out of the game and we had the lead, I just didn't think it would be very smart to put him back in,'' Popovich said. ``He wanted to go in, he was begging me. I just thought he was too stiff.

``One game is not more important than his health.''

Duncan said his entire body stiffened up, but added: ``I was ready to go back in.''

He finished with 17 points in 19 minutes.

The Spurs outscored Los Angeles 37-15 in the third quarter for an 80-55 lead, and led 89-61 early in the final period when the Lakers went on a 23-2 run to draw within seven points with 3:51 remaining.

But that was as close as they would get.

``It just shows what we're capable of and how we can play if we get after it a little bit,'' said Lamar Odom, who led the Lakers with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Manu Ginobili added 17 points and nine assists for the Spurs (38-10), who have won four straight and eight of nine.

``Their lead got too big,'' Odom said. ``The San Antonio Spurs don't lose a game when they're up by 25.''

Chucky Atkins added 18 points and Butler scored 14 for the Lakers (24-20), who missed another opportunity for a season-high three-game winning streak. They've won consecutive games 10 times, but failed in each of those situations to win a third straight.

Hamblen, a 57-year-old career assistant, has five championship rings, all earned as an assistant under Jackson with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls.

``I just feel like I'm keeping the seat warm,'' Hamblen said before the game.

When asked who for, he replied: ``I have no idea.''

Then, Hamblen said: ``I'd love for Phil to come back any day, to be honest with you.''

Tomjanovich succeeded Jackson last summer, signing a five-year, $30 million contract. Jackson had an identical deal that expired after last season, and he wasn't asked to return.

Jackson coached the Lakers to championships in his first three years on the job and guided them to the NBA Finals last June, where they lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has acknowledged that Jackson's name would come up in discussions. But Kupchak didn't rule out the possibility that Hamblen would coach the rest of the season, or beyond.

Hamblen served as acting head coach in the previous two games, which Tomjanovich missed because of a stomach virus. It was during that time that Tomjanovich decided to step down.

The Lakers are 5-5 without Kobe Bryant, who hasn't played since spraining his right ankle Jan. 13. Bryant hopes to play at some point during his team's five-game road trip, which begins Sunday at Houston.

Heat 100, Cavaliers 88

Shaquille O'Neal had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and the Heat overcame 31 points and 10 assists from LeBron James, voted an All-Star starter earlier in the day, to beat the visiting Cavaliers.

Eddie Jones added 22 points and Dwyane Wade scored 20 for the Heat, who improved to 12-2 following a loss.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 points, and Drew Gooden had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Clippers 106, Grizzlies 103

Bobby Simmons scored seven of his 26 points in the final three minutes, and Marko Jaric added 25 points as the visiting Clippers won their third straight and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Grizzlies.

Brian Cardinal missed a desperation shot from beyond midcourt at the buzzer, sending the Grizzlies to only their second loss in seven games. Mike Miller led Memphis with 16 points.

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