SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs leaned on their championship pedigree, and Tony Parker turned back the clock.
Parker had 23 points, sparking San Antonio to a needed 100-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night before embarking on a difficult road trip.
Parker, the Spurs’ starting point guard since his rookie season in 2001, was supplanted by second-year player Dejounte Murray earlier this season. The 17-year veteran responded to an increased workload in the fourth quarter by scoring eight points in eight minutes.
“He was great tonight for us,” Spurs veteran Danny Green said. “Tony was his old self, got a little rhythm going. We got him open, had some screens (and) we got some defensive stops, which we were able to get our pace going. He found his mid-range and started knocking them down, put a lot of pressure on them. We needed it. It was big tonight.”
Green had 14 points and Davis Bertans added 17 points for San Antonio, which snapped a four-game losing streak at home.
The Grizzlies had lost 14 straight, but the Spurs’ recent skid has had a greater impact on the Western Conference playoff picture. San Antonio had dropped eight of 10 and fallen from third to sixth in the crowded West, putting them at risk of missing the postseason for the first time in 21 years.
The Spurs moved up to fifth place ahead of Minnesota with the victory.
San Antonio needed the victory considering its next three games are at Golden State, Oklahoma City and Houston.
The Spurs were thrown into this dilemma after losing two straight at home by blowing a lead in the final two minutes of each game.
LaMarcus Aldridge returned after spraining his right ankle in the first half against New Orleans and missing the following game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Aldridge’s absence contributed to San Antonio blowing a 15-point lead against the Pelicans and a 17-point lead to the Lakers.
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, did scare the crowd by draining a 3-pointer and then banking in jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining to cut the Spurs lead to 100-98. Gasol pleading for a foul, but none was given as San Antonio inbounded the ball to close out the win.
“In the fourth quarter we played a little bit better defense than we have, but we still make it tough on ourselves,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “But we got the win, and that’s what matters.”
The championship reserve squad of subs Parker, Green and Manu Ginobili prevented another crushing last-minute loss.
“Tony, you could see he had a couple of days off,” Bertans said. “He did what he does, he got some shots going.”
Parker’s 11 points in the first quarter were the most he’s scored in any quarter this season, and Green’s 3-pointer at the close of the first half erased an eight-point deficit and gave the Spurs a 47-45 lead.
Memphis rookie Dillon Brooks finished with 21 points, one off his season high.
Grizzlies: Gasol and Deyonta Davis both played after being list as questionable with left ankle injuries. … JaMychal Green had 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Spurs: … Danny Green is the only guard with 50-plus steals and 50-plus blocks in the last six seasons. The only other players to achieve that feat are Detroit’s Anthony Davis and New Orleans teammates Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Parker said he does not expect Pau Gasol to play against Golden State on Thursday after the Spurs starting center injured his shoulder late against Memphis.
“Maybe, he said it’s pretty bad, so I’m just assuming that were going to lose him,” Parker said.
The Gasol brothers prepared to battle under the boards by competing at darts at Pau Gasol’s home Sunday night. Marc Gasol lost the contest by a bull’s eye.
“He had the home board advantage,” Marc Gasol said. “He plays all the time. I have two kids and I don’t get to play darts. He doesn’t have any kids. He has no kids. And he cheats. He gave me the weighted darts.”
Grizzlies: Visit Chicago on Wednesday night.
Spurs: Visit Golden State on Thursday night.