Faced with a challenge, the San Antonio Spurs kept their cool Friday night and in the end left another team in their dust.
Tony Parker scored 20 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and San Antonio’s reserves poured in 45 points to help the brutally efficient Spurs pull away from the Memphis Grizzlies for a 102-86 win Friday night.
The Spurs’ ninth straight victory added to the best start in franchise history (11-1).
Memphis pulled within 79-78 with 6:37 left in the game on Tony Allen’s jumper, but the Spurs closed on a 23-8 run, making shot after shot in the final minutes.
"We kept our composure and we didn’t panic," Parker said. "We just run our stuff and make stops."
The exasperated Grizzlies couldn’t do much but watch. San Antonio beat Memphis for the sixth straight game, counting the postseason. The Spurs swept Memphis in the Western Conference finals last season and beat them again 101-94 on this season’s opening night in San Antonio.
"Obviously, they have our number," Allen said. "That’s six straight games they’ve beat us. We have to catch up to where they’re at."
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Parker struggled some in the third quarter, but adjusted quickly.
"He made great decisions, got the ball moving and involved everybody," Popovich said. "He spread the floor for himself and did a really fine job."
Tiago Splitter scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and Manu Ginobili added 15 off the bench. The Spurs shot 42 of 79 from the field (53.2 percent).
It was a costly loss for the Grizzlies (7-6), who had starting center Marc Gasol leave the game with a sprained left knee early in the second quarter. He didn’t return and is expected to have an MRI on Saturday.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 28 points. Zach Randolph added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Once Gasol left, the Grizzlies’ chances of winning were greatly diminished.
The 7-foot-1 center grabbed at his knee while sliding toward the basket on defense, but never went to the floor. He gingerly walked off the floor and into the locker room.
Without him, the Grizzlies quickly lost ground. The Spurs pounded the ball inside and found plenty of room when driving to the basket, shooting 57.5 percent from the field (23 of 40) on the way to a 51-37 halftime lead.
The Grizzlies managed to fight back. Kosta Koufos, who started the second half in place of Gasol, made an easy layup after a nice pass from Allen to tie it at 59 and the game remained close until midway through the fourth quarter.
Koufos played a season-high 28 minutes, finishing with six points and seven rebounds.
The Spurs were able to outlast the Grizzlies with superior depth. Their bench was terrific in the middle of the game — Ginobili and Marco Belinelli repeatedly hit big shots — and then the Spurs’ starters did the rest to hold on for the win.
"We played well in the first half and got a bit of a lead," San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said. "They made a run as we expect everybody to do. This is the NBA. It’s how it works. We kept our composure, made some plays at the right time and just gave ourselves a cushion again."
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The loss broke a four-game winning streak for the Grizzlies. Conley shot 12 of 19 from the floor, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Spurs.
"They are incredibly smart," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "They have a lot of shooters, so they spread you out. You end up chasing your tail sometimes."
NOTES:The Grizzlies’ recent four-game road sweep came at the expense of every NBA team in California, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. … Allen returned after a one-game league suspension for kicking Clippers’ G Chris Paul in the face. … The Spurs have a quick turnaround, facing Cleveland on Saturday night in San Antonio. … San Antonio’s Duncan had another quiet night, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds. He’s averaged just 9.3 points over the past four games.