SAN ANTONIO -- New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams said before Friday night's game against the Spurs that his team faced a formidable challenge trying to contain one of the hottest offensive squads in the NBA.
As much as Williams talked up the Spurs in his pregame remarks to the media, the praise still fell short considering the buzz saw the Hornets ran into at the AT&T Center.
There was little Williams or the Hornets could do to repel the firepower that carried the Spurs to a 128-103 rout and their 10th consecutive victory. The 128 points are a season-high for the Silver & Black.
The win, combined with Oklahoma City's loss to Indiana on Friday night, moved the Spurs (39-14) percentage points ahead of the Thunder (40-15) for first place in the Western Conference.
"It's always nice to be No. 1," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "It's not something easy to accomplish. The truth is that we have a really tough schedule ahead. We have 13 games in 19 days, with back-to-backs. So, we don't want to get crazy about it.
"We just have to keep winning, keep playing well together and if the one seed comes, great. If not, we're happy with two, too."
Duncan hit 8 of 9 shots and led Spurs with 19 points
Tim Duncan played only 20 minutes and 24 seconds, but he hit 8 of 9 shots and led the Spurs with 19 points. Five other Spurs, all reserves scored in double figures: Ginobili (14), Patty Mills (14), Stephen Jackson (13), Gary Neal (13) and Tiago Splitter (10).
The Hornets simply got buried by an onslaught that was reflected in the Spurs' shooting percentage. The Silver & Black hit 51 of 84 field goal attempts, including 9 of 18 from 3-point land, for 60.7 percent.
"Well, there are some things on my mind, but that team is primed and ready to contend, or at least make some noise in the playoffs," said Williams, a former Spurs player. "They have shooting. They space correctly. They execute out of timeouts.
"Defensively, they knew we were running. They took us out of our stuff. Normally I talk about us and what we didn't do, but that Spurs team is about as complete as I've seen. They have the point-guard play, they have the guards. They have four or five guys who can play the pick-and-roll."
The Spurs were so hot that they shot 66.7 percent in the first half --- 60.7 in the opening quarter and 71.4 percent in the second --- and led 72-45 at intermission.
"We moved the ball really well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in an understatement. "It was a great half for us. New Orleans has been playing hard all year long under tough circumstances, and tonight we just played really, really well in the first half."
Spurs reserves contributed heavily
The Spurs' backups scored 82 points, the most off the bench in the NBA season this season.
"At the end of the day it's about getting the job done," Jackson said. "It's about winning games. At this point no one is worried about who's starting and who's coming off the bench. We are trying to get wins. We are trying to see the bigger goal and that's winning a championship."
The Silver & Black play Utah at 6 p.m. Sunday at the AT&T Center. A Spurs victory would give them 11 consecutive victories, tying their longest winning streak of the season. The 11-game win streak is also the longest in the league this season.
Hornets guard Eric Gordon hit 11 of 19 shots and led all scorers with 31 points, but that was of little consolation to him after the game.
"I tried to find ways to help this team win," Gordon said. "As a team, we were not putting it together tonight. They just all out beat us and all of us just did not play well together tonight."
So what makes the Spurs so potent offensively?
"They seem to play a lot faster now," Gordon said. "They play at a higher tempo and before the game, Coach (Williams) was telling us that over their winning streak, they are averaging close to 115 points and that is crazy. They play fast and they play smart, and that makes them a tough team to beat."
Popovich and his job have done a masterful job of mixing the old and the new to produce a team that can score --- and win --- in a variety of ways. While the Spurs still have a strong post-up game with Duncan and Splitter, they are more athletic and have more players who can create their own shot.
"You couldn't have a better coach with the talent we have running the team," Jackson said. "He knows when to give guys rest, he knows when to play guys, and he knows when to make subs. It's working well for us right now."
The Spurs' winning streak is proof of that.