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(Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs gave recuperating coach Gregg Popovich a welcome return to the sidelines on Wednesday by romping to a ninth consecutive win with a 102-78 thumping of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Popovich had missed the last three games through illness and despite the absence of big man Tim Duncan for a fourth straight contest with a knee injury, the NBA-leading Spurs were far too strong for the Bobcats.
Tony Parker stepped in to fill the void left by Duncan and recorded 22 points with seven assists, as Kawhi Leonard added 18 points to help San Antonio cruise to another comfortable win at home, where they are 21-2 this season.
"(Parker) did it again. He made a couple baskets down the stretch when they cut (the lead)," Popovich said of his impressive guard, who made 9-of-10 shots.
"He has been really special."
The Spurs (37-11) set the tone for an easy night's work when they opened the game with an 8-0 run and never fell behind.
San Antonio enjoyed a typically efficient shooting performance with an impressive 55 percent success rate from the field, including 9-of-16 from three-point range.
Ramon Sessions scored 20 off the bench to pace the Bobcats (11-34), who lost for the 10th time in 12 games.
Charlotte fell behind by 12 at halftime and were pounded in the fourth quarter as San Antonio ended the game with a 15-1 run.
"(The Spurs) took care of business," Bobcats guard Ben Gordon said. "In the second half, they just put us away."
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien