CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Tim Duncan scored 29 points and Tony Parker added 23 to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 94-86 victory over the winded Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

The Bobcats, who played into overtime in three of their first four games, were clearly feeling the effects of that grind against the defending NBA champions. The Spurs led almost the entire way and the final score was closer than the game ever was.

Charlotte made several brief runs, the final one with just over three minutes to play when the Bobcats began to chip away at the Spurs’ 85-75 lead. Although they were able to score, the Bobcats couldn’t stop the Spurs and the closest they got was 89-84 with 1:19 to play.

Parker then ended any comeback hopes with a driving layup over Emeka Okafor that made it 91-84.

Nick Van Exel added 12 points for San Antonio, which was short-handed with guards Michael Finley (groin) and Brent Barry (back spasms) both going on the inactive list before the game. Manu Ginobili, who was also hurting, came off the bench and scored just eight points in 30 minutes.

Gerald Wallace, who was questionable before the game because of a concussion he suffered on Monday night, scored 15 points for the Bobcats. Primoz Brezec had 13, while Okafor and Keith Bogans scored 11 each.

The Spurs led by as many as 11 in the first half, but the Bobcats were able to pull back into the game by holding San Antonio scoreless for over four minutes. It allowed Charlotte to cut the lead to 30-29 on a pair of Raymond Felton free throws.

Charlotte never could get over the hump, though, and the Spurs had pushed their lead back to 48-43 by halftime.

San Antonio broke the game open in the third quarter behind Duncan, who shot 6-of-9 in the period and helped the Spurs take a 64-52 lead.

Duncan started a 13-4 run with a layup on an assist from Parker, then after a Charlotte miss, he grabbed a defensive rebound and scored on a 12-foot turnaround jumper. He added a pair of free throws in the run, and his layup with 5:30 to play in the third capped it.

Notes: Although Duncan played at Wake Forest, this was his first appearance in Charlotte since Nov. 8, 2001. … The Spurs also activated forward Sean Marks and signed guard Melvin Sanders, who had been with the team in training camp. … Among the celebrities in attendance was reigning NASCAR champion Kurt Busch – who was booed when introduced on the scoreboard – and a slew of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. … Former Hornets coach Paul Silas was also at the game, saying he has moved back to Charlotte since being let go by the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. He’s currently doing some broadcasting work for ESPN.

AP-ES-11-09-05 2255EST

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