- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2002

SAN ANTONIO It was one of the best scenarios the Washington Wizards could have envisioned on their two-game trip through Texas.
After all, what could be better than shackling reigning league MVP Tim Duncan with his third foul in the first quarter and building a double-digit lead against one of the best teams in the Western Conference?
But Duncan wasn't voted the best player in the league because he disappears when he gets into foul trouble, and he didn't do that against the Wizards. Instead, he responded with 16 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the Spurs to a 92-81 victory over the Wizards in their first appearance at the Spurs' new home, SBC Center.
"It helped that Tim Duncan was on the bench with foul trouble in the first half," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "That really helped us a lot because he compromises your defense so much. Pretty much, if he's not in the game, you try to lock in to everybody else straight up. But when he's in the game, you have to try to give some help, and that usually frees up some shooting."
Last night it freed up point guard Tony Parker in a big way. Parker scored a game-high 21 points and was 2-for-4 from 3-point range.
Parker's biggest 3s of the night didn't come in the early stages, when the Spurs were only good enough to score 35 points by halftime, but rather when the game was being decided.
His first, with 4:09 left to play, put the Spurs (17-10) ahead for good. The second, with 3:36 to play, gave San Antonio an 81-77 advantage. They undoubtedly were the biggest baskets of the fourth quarter, which the Spurs ended on a 19-6 run.
Parker started just 1-for-5 from the field, forcing several bad shots. But in the second half, when the Spurs held the Wizards to just 36 points, Parker was lethal. He went 6-for-8, including his two 3s.
"We had guys like him and Stephen Jackson taking shots when the game was on the line," Wizards center Brendan Haywood said. "They aren't good 3-point shooters, but they hit all the shots."
In seeing their three-game winning streak come to an end along with a chance to move to .500 for the first time since Nov.22 the Wizards (12-14) were pounded down low. The Spurs forged a 45-28 rebounding advantage that included 11 offensive rebounds.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting, and Christian Laettner scored a season-high 16. However, Michael Jordan, who had strung together back-to-back games of at least 30 points, was just 8-for-20 from the field for 16 points while playing a season-high 41 minutes.
Duncan finished with 11 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson, who also hit a pair of crucial 3s, finished with 17 points.
Little went right for the Spurs, winners of three in a row and five of their last six, in the early going. Duncan was whistled for his third foul less than eight minutes in, and the Wizards took advantage in the first half.
With Duncan on the bench until a little more than three minutes remained in the half, the Wizards had excellent ball movement and played aggressively at the defensive end. This allowed them to extend a 30-27 lead to 41-27 after Jordan canned a 12-footer with 3:58 before the break.

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