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NBA Champs Spurs book playoff return

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TIM-DUNCAN-SPURSORLANDO, April 2- Reigning champions San Antonio are headed back to the NBA playoffs for the 18th straight season after a 103-91 victory over Orlando.

Backup big man Aron Baynes scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Spurs, whose reserves out-scored the Magic bench 69-12.

Manu Ginobili added 13 points and Marco Belinelli chipped in 12 for the Spurs. Boris Diaw had 11 points and Kawhi Leonard contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.

With one of his signature bank shots in the third quarter, veteran Spurs star Tim Duncan marked his 10,000th two-point field goal. He is one of just 11 players in NBA history to hit 10,000 two-pointers.

The Spurs trailed 19-16 before scoring the last seven points of the first quarter to take the lead for good.

San Antonio led by as many as 25 points in the second half, cruising to their fifth straight victory.

The Spurs are 15-3 since February 27, once again showing their ability to round into form as the playoffs loom.

“It’s not that we are switching it on now,” Ginobili said. “We tried to get it together early, but we just couldn’t, whether it was from injuries or just poor play.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t surprised to see his veteran team delivering the goods as the post-season approaches — even on the second night of back-to-back games.

“They’re high-character guys and they care about what’s going on,” Popovich said.

The Spurs are currently sixth in the Western Conference.

Behind them the Dallas Mavericks tightened their grip on the seventh seed with a 135-131 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot and four games adrift of the Mavs.

Monta Ellis scored 26 points for Dallas, Chandler Parsons added 22 with six assists and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 for Dallas, who snapped a two-game skid.

Russell Westbrook, Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow did everything they could.

Westbrook posted his 10th triple-double of the season with 31 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Kanter delivered a career-high 30 points with 16 rebounds and Morrow came off the bench and drained six three-pointers on his way to a season-high 32 points.

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