A surprising "first" for Tim Duncan and the Spurs

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A surprising "first" for Tim Duncan and the Spurs

From Comcast SportsNetSAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs have won four NBA championships, made 32 playoff appearances and captured 18 division titles in their 40-year history.Yet for all their success, they had never opened a season with four straight victories.Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs finally did so Monday night, rolling past the Indiana Pacers 101-79 to remain unbeaten."I'm surprised we're still doing records," Parker said. "It seems like we did everything, but that's another one. That's great."It's an unprecedented start for San Antonio, albeit one that left players scratching their heads."It's just a stat, not that important in the long-term," Manu Ginobili said. "(But) at this point we are enjoying it. It's curious that a team this successful hasn't started that well before."The Spurs upended the Pacers (2-2) with what has become a familiar formula in recent years -- a little Parker, a little Duncan and a lot off the bench.Gary Neal scored 17 points, DeJuan Blair 14 and Stephen Jackson 12 to pace San Antonio's reserves. The Spurs outscored the Pacers' bench 57-35."That's kind of been our motto," Neal said. "With Manu coming off and Stephen Jackson, those guys could be starting on any team in the NBA. We are a deep team. We've just got to maintain effort when the bench comes in."Duncan added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Parker finished with six points, seven assists and only one turnover.Former Spurs guard George Hill led Indiana with 15 points. Paul George added 14 points and David West had 10.The Spurs needed a boost from their bench after a sluggish start.Both teams aggressively defended the point early, resulting in a combined 4-for-16 shooting from the field in the first 5 minutes.The Spurs then scored nine straight points to take a 14-9 lead after sharing the ball more. Boris Diaw capped the run with a layup off a bounce pass from Parker with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.Parker later fed a cutting Ginobili, who made a tip pass to Blair for a layup with 1 second left in the first quarter for a 26-18 lead."We moved the ball well," Ginobili said. "Gary was impressive today. But yeah, we changed the tempo of the game. We did good -- much better than the last game."Parker had three of the team's seven assists in the first quarter.Parker sat for 9 minutes in the second period after playing the entire first. With the All-Star point guard on the bench, Jackson and Neal combined for nine points in an 11-0 run that gave the Spurs a 37-18 lead to open the second.Indiana did not surpass 20 points until West dunked off an offensive rebound with 7 minutes left in the first half.West kept the Pacers in contention, scoring all 10 of his points in the second quarter while going 4 for 5 from the field. His 23-foot jumper cut San Antonio's lead to 47-38 at halftime.The Spurs maintained a double-digit lead for nearly all of the second half.The Pacers shot just 35 percent for the game. San Antonio forced 14 turnovers in the second half."Their continuity is evident just watching them play," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Thirteen of their 14 guys were here last year and their core guys have been here for many years winning championships. It's a system they are familiar with. They are a well-oiled machine and they play extremely hard on both sides of the court."NOTES:Indiana forward Danny Granger missed his fourth game with a sore left knee. Granger is out indefinitely. ... Former Indiana Pacers point guard Haywoode Workman was among the game officials. Workman played for the Pacers from 1993-99 and spent parts of four other seasons with three other clubs. His final season in the NBA was 2000 with the Toronto Raptors. ... Hill received a loud ovation during pregame introductions. ... Parker went flying over the first row of courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball in the second half. He landed partially on Ed Whitacre, bending the eyeglass frame of the former CEO of General Motors and AT&T.

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.