The San Antonio Spurs blew past the New Orleans Hornets 128-103 to claim the Western Conference lead with their 10th consecutive victory on Friday.
The win moved the Spurs (39-14) percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City (40-15) after the Thunder lost their third in a row, a 103-98 setback to the Indiana Pacers.
Tim Duncan, making eight of nine field goal attempts, led the Spurs with 19 points in 20 minutes while Eric Gordon top-scored with 31 for New Orleans, who at 14-41 have the worst record in the Western Conference.
"That Spurs team is about as complete as I've seen," Hornets coach Monty Williams told reporters. "We couldn't have guarded a bike tonight if we were riding it."
San Antonio's bench played a big role in the Spurs reaching a season high in points for the first half (72) and the game.
Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills each scored 14 points with Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal adding 13 apiece as the Spurs shot better than 60 percent
"It was a great (first) half," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "We played just really, really well in the half and were able to jump on them."
Suddenly struggling Oklahoma City could not overcome a 24-point third quarter deficit in losing to Indiana, the third-placed team in the East.
Russell Westbrook's three-pointer pulled the Thunder within three with 5.5 seconds left, but Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 26 points, scored the game's final two points on free throws.
Indiana stormed to a 32-20 first quarter lead and enjoyed a 56-41 advantage at the half thanks to a hot start from Roy Hibbert, who had 16 of his 21 points in the first half.
Hibbert also pulled down 12 rebounds to go with Paul George's career high 16.
The Miami Heat, the number two team in the East, also lost thanks to a slow start. The Heat scored just 12 points in the first quarter and lost 97-82 to the Memphis Grizzlies. The loss snapped Miami's 17-game home winning streak.
Rudy Gay had 17 points while six other Grizzlies finished with double figures.
Miami's 'big three' did their part, LeBron James scoring 21, Dwyane Wade 20 and Chris Bosh 19, but the rest of the team scored only 22.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)