But even in back-to-backs, he can still resemble his old self.
A night after Duncan scored 25 in a win over Houston, it was somewhat surprising he even played. Coach Gregg Popovich has vowed to limit Duncan's wear and tear -- even declaring that the 35-year-old will sit at least one game when the Spurs play four in five nights -- and playing the West's worst team seemed to invite a night off.
On the other hand, Popovich said, Duncan's body is holding up just fine so far.
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"We kept his minutes down," said Popovich, who played Duncan for 22 minutes against New Orleans. "He didn't play that much. As long as the minutes are low, he feels pretty good."
The Hornets didn't make it easy. Carl Landry scored 17 points and Greivis Vasquez added 16 points staring in place of Jarrett Jack, keeping New Orleans close before the Spurs blew on the game in the fourth.
Jack sat out with a sore knee but the pain isn't considered serious. The Hornets have lost 12 of their last 13.
New Orleans trailed by just 3 after the third quarter but was outscored 22-12 in the fourth. The Hornets shot 29 percent in the final period, while the Spurs missed only five shots.
"We lost the last two games in the fourth quarter," Vasquez said. "We play hard in the third quarter and then we do not execute in the fourth. As a point guard it's hard to fill Chris Paul's shoes but I expect myself to be better and that takes a little work"
Tiago Splitter added 16 points and Danny Green had 11 off the bench for the Spurs, who improved to an NBA-best 12-1 at home. They need to stockpile all the home wins they can: After hosting the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, the Spurs won't be back home for three weeks.
The San Antonio Rodeo runs the Spurs out of town every February -- but the franchise has never seen a stretch like this. The compressed schedule in wake of the NBA lockout has San Antonio in the midst of playing 16 of 21 games outside the AT&T Center, the toughest road run in Spurs history.
So far, the Spurs are just 3-8 away from home.
"We got to find a way to win on the road. That's the bottom line," Duncan said. "We're going to have enough opportunities coming up soon."
Duncan used to be a shoo-in among All-Star starters like those announced Thursday, but his streak of selections is in doubt this time. He's averaging nearly 14 points and 7.5 rebounds, but the main concern for Popovich is keeping Duncan healthy now and not run him down before the end of the season.
The upside is that the Spurs should get Manu Ginobili back on their trip. Ginobili broke his hand Jan. 2 but the Spurs have persevered without their go-to scorer, going 12-7 so far and staying atop the Southwest Division.
Carldell Johnson scored 11 points and was the only other Hornets player in double figures.
Like the Spurs, the Hornets were also playing for the second time in two nights after losing at home to Phoenix. Hornets coach Monty Williams shrugged before the game at the effect of defeat after defeat.
"We've had so many losses, they all sting," Williams said.
- Parker needs 7 assists to surpass Avery Johnson for the franchise record. Parker has 4,468 career assists, all with the San Antonio.
- Duncan needs 19 rebounds to surpass Charles Oakley and become among the NBA's top 20 rebounders of all time.