Patriots

Without Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Spurs still win

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Without Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Spurs still win

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Tim Duncan was dressed in street clothes, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili joining him on the bench. San Antonio's three biggest stars got up occasionally to cheer on their teammates, but that was the extent of their contribution on Monday.On this night, the NBA-best Spurs did just fine without them.Kawhi Leonard had a career-high 26 points and Danny Green scored 18, leading short-handed San Antonio to an impressive 103-89 victory against the Chicago Bulls."One would hope that you could play with anybody in your system, but it was a tough challenge for them tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "And I couldn't be more proud of what they did."Parker, Duncan and Ginobili were all out with injuries, and swingman Stephen Jackson also missed the game due to "personal business," according to the team. With Duncan on the sideline, the Spurs were outrebounded 49-26, including a whopping 17-2 deficit on the offensive glass.And San Antonio still managed to win, due in large part to 19 Chicago turnovers that the Spurs turned into 29 points."The approach is still the same, you know, every game," Green said. "It starts with Pop. He does a great job of preparing us, tells us what we need to do. We listen to him."Nate Robinson scored 20 points and Richard Hamilton had 16 for the Bulls, who were coming off a 3-3 road trip -- their longest of the season. Carlos Boozer added 14 points and All-Star Joakim Noah pulled down 15 rebounds despite a nagging right foot injury."When you outrebound somebody like we did and to be in the position we were in, we beat ourselves," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, lamenting all the turnovers. "They are terrific. They are going to make you pay for your mistakes."San Antonio led by 14 at three different points in the third quarter, but Robinson led the Bulls right back. The streaky point guard converted a twisting reverse layup to trim the Spurs' lead to 73-69 with 56 seconds left in the period.Chicago pulled within one in the fourth before the Spurs began to pull away. Boris Diaw had a three-point play and Leonard converted a layup in a 7-0 surge that made it 89-78 with 5:55 to go.Parker had 29 points and 11 assists in the Spurs' 111-86 victory at Brooklyn on Sunday night, but Popovich said his star's right knee became swollen during the game. Parker is having an MVP-type of season, averaging 20.7 points and 7.7 assists per game.Duncan missed his fourth straight game due to a sore left knee. Ginobili was out for the fifth consecutive game with tightness in his left hamstring."For sure it was a great win for us," said center Tiago Splitter, who had 16 points in 33 minutes despite an awkward fall in the first quarter. "We hope all the guys get better and healthy again soon and ready to help us."The injuries for All-Stars Parker and Duncan, plus key scorer Ginobili, meant San Antonio's three best players were reduced to a cheerleading role for the night, and their teammates gave them plenty of reasons to stand and applaud.Gary Neal also had 16 points for San Antonio (41-12), which improved the league's best road record to 19-10. Nando De Colo, subbing for Parker, had nine points and seven assists in his second career start.Luol Deng finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago (30-21), which dropped to 15-12 at home this season."We didn't make shots down the stretch and we couldn't get stops for some reason," Robinson said. "They have the best record in the NBA for a reason."NOTES:Thibodeau said he thinks G Kirk Hinrich (right elbow) will travel with the team to Boston for Wednesday's game against the Celtics. Hinrich hasn't appeared in a game since Jan. 30 at Milwaukee. ... Splitter had a big bag of ice on his left ankle after the game. "It's painful right now, but we'll see tomorrow how it feels," he said. ... Deng addressed the crowd before the game and said he is looking forward to representing the Bulls at Sunday's All-Star game in Houston. ... Diaw and Splitter are the only players to appear in all 53 games for the Spurs this season.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

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