NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- After it looked he would be knocked out of the game, Tim Duncan was the one that delivered the knockout blow.
Tim Duncan capped another dominating performance with an unexpected 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining as the San Antonio Spurs continued to excel on the road with a 92-90 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
Making a push for his second straight NBA MVP award, Duncan's latest big game came with some physical challenges along the way. He was kneed in the head by Jamaal Magloire in the third quarter and limped off the court briefly with 4:33 remaining in the contest after landing awkwardly on his right ankle.
"I was a little worried when he went down," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I told him we didn't want any heroes and if he couldn't play, he couldn't play. He looked at me like I was crazy, so we left him in the game and thank goodness we did."
But Duncan was there down the stretch when his team needed him the most. Leading 88-86, the Spurs came out of a timeout and went to Duncan, who drilled a 3-pointer from the left side as the shot clock expired.
"It was kind of a have-to-take shot. I was lucky enough to make it," Duncan said. "They kind of dropped off the inbounder and fronted the post, so I kind of stepped out and it turned into what it was."
"I'm not really amazed at anything these guys do," Hornets forward Jamal Mashburn said. "You've got 5-7 guys dunking the ball, so you're going to have 7-footers shooting threes. He made a timely one. There's no telling what would have happened if he had missed, but as soon as it left his hands, I knew it was good."
Masburn also feels Duncan should win MVP honors.
"He's an excellent player," Mashburn said. "He's my MVP choice. He's a tough, toough player to cover. He does so much. He knocked down the three, and you can't guard him in the post. He's a tough cover out there. He's been like that since he's been in the league. If Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) doesn't get it, he should win the MVP award."
It was just the sixth 3-pointer of the season for Duncan, who finished with 33 points and 12 rebounds. He made 12-of-22 shots and 8-of-9 free throws.
Malik Rose and Stephen Jackson each added 12 points for San Antonio, which won for the 14th time in its last 15 road games. The Spurs have won five straight overall and remained two games back of first-place Dallas in the Midwest Division.
The Spurs held one-point lead entering the fourth quarter and quickly extended it as Kevin Willis scored inside and Speedy Claxton made two foul shots.
Mashburn sank a 3-pointer and George Lynch made a jumper for the Hornets, tying it at 70-70 with 9:49 remaining.
Mashburn and Baron Davis tried to carry the Hornets in the fourth quarter, combining for 16 of the club's 25 points. Mashburn finished with 24 points and Davis 18 and six assists.
A pair of free throws by rookie Manu Ginoboli with 8:46 to go started a 12-3 surge for the Spurs that Malik Rose capped with 1-of-2 free throws that opened an 84-75 lead with 5:54 to play. Rose scored six points in the surge while taking pressure off Duncan, who had a pair of foul shots in the burst.
But Mashburn stepped outside and hit a 3-pointer and Davis scored on consecutive drives to the basket, pulling the Hornets within 84-82 with 3:47 to go.
After Duncan scored inside, Masburn had consecutive baskets to tie it before Rose made two foul shots with 72 seconds left to give the Spurs the lead for good, 88-86. Rose scored eight points in the fourth quarter.
"Malik was really something," Popovich said. "We were almost going to take him out and give him a rest because he played so many minutes in a row, but he really attacked the rim and got a lot of free throws for us and made some possessions really valuable for us because we weren't getting great shots."
The Spurs did plenty of damage from the line in the fourth quarter, going 12-of-16. The Hornets made just 2-of-3 shots from the line over the final 12 minutes.
"We have to learn how to attack, be on the attack at the end of games and that gives you a chance because you are going to create foul situations for yourself rather than being tentative shooting jumpers," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "Go inside and take the ball to the hoop. BD (Davis) and Mash (Mashburn) has to do it. If we can learn anything and do that we are going to be OK."
Tony Parker added 11 points and seven assists for the San Antonio, which shot 47 percent (31-of-66) and went 27-of-35 at the line. New Orleans shot 47 percent (36-of-77) and was 14-of-17 at the line.
Duncan did most of his work in a tight first half that featured 19 lead changes and neither team leading by more than four points. He made 7-of-10 shots in the half, including a bank shot as time expired to give the Spurs a 50-49 lead.
A dunk by Duncan with 3:42 left in the third quarter gave the Spurs a 64-57 lead. But the Hornets closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to pull within two.