SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Manu Ginobili and Carmelo Anthony both missed two weeks. Cruising to wins like this is what the San Antonio Spurs pictured when their scoring star came back.
The sinking New York Knicks, meanwhile, are in a nightmare since theirs returned.
Tony Parker scored 32 points and the Spurs dealt New York a third consecutive loss, 118-105 on Wednesday night, that only exacerbated the mounting frustrations of the Knicks. Fading rapidly is the feel-good glow of Linsanity: New York has lost six of nine and has only stumbled since Jeremy Lin and Anthony were reunited just before the All-Star game.
Like the Knicks, the Spurs are finally back at full strength with Ginobili, who played his second game after missing two weeks with a strained stomach muscle. Ginobili and Tim Duncan scored 17 points apiece, while San Antonio is doing a far better job than New York of blending its pieces back together.
``We were more into this game. We knew that we needed it,' Ginobili said. ``We lost two out of three at home, and this game was an important one. We didn't want to let it get away.'
Anthony led New York with 27 points. He was sharper than a listless, six-point game in Dallas a night earlier but had no answers afterward on what's not working.
``I don't know. I really can't answer that,' Anthony said. ``I really can't put a finger on it.'
Amare Stoudemire, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds, took a different view after a game in which New York trailed by as much as 24 in the second half.
``(The Spurs) don't have nearly enough talent to compete with us,' Stoudemire said. ``Our personnel, our talent is off the charts.'
It hardly looks that way lately. The Knicks are three games below .500 and bear little resemblance to their Lin-inspired resurgence before the All-Star break, and booting Landry Fields from the starting lineup before the game didn't help much.
New York played without center Tyson Chandler, who sat out with a strained hamstring.
Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said relegating Fields to the bench wasn't a demotion but simply a stab at trying to find combinations that work. The change came a night after the Knicks trailed by as many as 19 at Dallas, where Anthony afterward admitted having trouble finding his new role in the offense.
Lin came out of nowhere last month and delivered the Knicks the playmaking point guard they craved. But New York's transition has been anything but seamless since Anthony returned Feb. 20 after missing seven games, mostly because of a groin injury.
The Knicks are 2-5 with Anthony back in the lineup. D'Antoni said before the game that Anthony needs to be New York's leading scorer and said he understood the frustration of his star.
``You have to work through. But there's no reason why it can't co-exist,' D'Antoni said. ``There's no reason why everybody shouldn't do well. We just got to find the right balance of everybody getting into their spots.'
Anthony had as many field goals in the first 6 minutes Wednesday night - two 3-pointers - than he did in Dallas. He was 12 of 24 from the floor. Lin shot 7 of 15 and had four assists. Stoudemire had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Gary Neal scored 12 points and found his way back into the starting lineup as the Spurs ease Ginobili back into playing shape. Ginobil played 25 minutes, shooting 7 of 10 from the floor and adding six assists.
DeJuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter added 10 points apiece for the Spurs. It was a convincing win for San Antonio, which had lost two of its last three at home after returning from the winningest nine-game road trip in NBA history, when the Spurs went 8-1 and quietly climbed to second in the West.
``We spent a lot of energy on the road when we went 8-1,' Parker said. ``So we want to take care of home court and we did that.'
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't stick around to see the end, getting ejected at the end of the third quarter following a heated exchange with officials over foul calls.
A scary moment came in the second quarter when Spurs point guard T.J. Ford lay on the floor for more than three minutes. The Spurs said the veteran received a stinger after getting elbowed in his back, and Ford appeared wobbly while being helped off the court and back into the tunnel. He didn't return to the game.
Ford missed the entire 2004-05 season because of a spinal cord injury, and the Spurs took the unusual step of noting that Ford was ``neurologically intact' on a midgame injury report. It was not immediately clear how much time the Spurs might be without their backup point guard, who has played in just 14 games all season because of other injuries.
Notes: Knicks F Jared Jefferies (sore foot) didn't play and is also expected to miss Friday's game against Milwaukee...Don't expect the Spurs to make any surprise trades before the March 15 deadline. Popovich joked before Wednesday's game that he'll just let the phone ring his office on the eve of the deadline. ``We're not doing anything anyway,' Popovich imagined telling his staff. ``Don't answer it.'
The Associated Press News Service
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