Spurs win on Carter's late put-back, defense

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

games ahead.

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.

Carter, starting in place of the injured Tony Parker, helped

seal the win with his defense on Stephon Marbury on the final

possession.

"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."

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while

Malik Rose had 12 points and Ron Mercer 11.

Shawn Marion added 20 points for Phoenix, which defeated the

Spurs in three of their four regular-season matchups last season.

Amare Stoudemire and Jake Voskuhl both fouled out and had 10

points.

Hardaway said Stoudemire's absence down the stretch hurt the

Suns.

"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

38-36.<

^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.