SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich insisted
that after the championship rings were handed out, his players
would wipe last season from their memories and think only of the
Well, the jewelry was distributed before Tuesday night's opener
against Phoenix, and the Spurs seemed to forgot too much too soon.
But with time almost gone, they remembered how to win.
Anthony Carter's offensive rebound with 28 seconds to play
lifted the Spurs to an 83-82 victory in a game in which San Antonio
trailed by as many as 15 points in the opening minutes and led for
a total of 46 seconds.
"It was looking real ugly at the beginning but we knew we had a
48-minute game," said Carter, who finished with 10 points and six
assists in his first game as a Spur. "Everybody just stayed
focused and did their job."
Marbury, who finished with 24 points, tried to isolate Carter,
but the Suns point guard could manage only an awkward 18-foot
jumper with about nine seconds remaining.
Marbury got his own rebound and missed another jumper that was
rebounded by the Suns' Penny Hardaway, who missed a 14-footer. The
ball was being batted around when time expired.
"(Carter) had him at the end and stayed with him and contested
his shot," Popovich said. "He made it tough for him."
Suns coach Frank Johnson said his team played good defense, but
he credited the Spurs.
"That's what's so great about this game," he said. "You keep
fighting and clawing and maybe something good happens."
Hardaway said Stoudemire's absence down the stretch hurt the
"We really need him to be in the game to have a chance to
win," he said.
Before the game, the San Antonio players, coaches and executives
were presented their diamond-heavy rings. Former Spurs David
Robinson, Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry, all now retired, returned to
the SBC Center to join six of last year's teammates getting rings.
The boisterous crowd went quiet when the Spurs fell behind 16-2
early, the only basket coming from Rasho Nesterovic about three
minutes into the game. For Nesterovic, who replaced Robinson at
center, they were his only points of the night.
It took the Spurs until the waning seconds of the first quarter
just to equal Marbury's 14 points in the period.
Mercer, also in his first game as a Spur, came off the bench for
nine points in the half on 4-for-7 shooting. He hit a 20-foot
jumper with 1:20 left in the half to pull San Antonio within
^Notes:@After the rings ceremony, Robinson watched the game in a
front-row seat with his three sons and Kerr went back to work as a
color analyst for TNT. ... Parker is also expected to miss
Wednesday night's game in Denver before returning to uniform
Saturday at home against New York. ... Phoenix has five straight
opening-night losses dating to 1999. ... The Suns get their first
look at LeBron James on Thursday when they host Cleveland.
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