San Antonio’s Tony Parker went from a proficient point guard to a prolific scorer to outduel Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
In a battle of two of the league’s elite point guards, Parker scored a season-high 26 points and chipped in six assists to carry the Spurs to a 112-100 victory over the defensively challenged Celtics on Wednesday night.
Parker knew he’d need to elevate his play against Rondo.
”Definitely. It’s always a good challenge,” Parker said. ”Rondo is one of the best in the NBA and every time you play one of the best, you want to be aggressive. Rondo had a great game, too, so it was a good battle of point guards.”
Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and reserve Tiago Splitter added a season-high 23 points, many coming when the Spurs took charge late in the third and early in the fourth.
Duncan could see that Parker was looking to score more.
”He’s been missing a lot of shots that he usually makes and he just made them tonight and that was kind of the difference,” he said. ”He made his floaters, he made his in-betweens and that opened up the floor for a lot of us. More than just being aggressive, I think he’s just kind of trying to get his shot back and trying to feel good about it.”
Rondo had 22 points and extended his consecutive streak of double-digit assist games to 35 with 15. Paul Pierce, who sprained his ankle in a 20-point loss at Detroit on Sunday, had 19 points.
It was the fourth straight game Boston (6-6) has allowed over 100 points.
”We shot 53 percent and the reason we were there is because our offense allowed us to stay there,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ”But to me, that was fools’ gold because the way we were playing defense, you’re not going to get a stop, you’re not going to win a game.”
DeJuan Blair chipped in with 12 points for the Spurs (9-3), but it was Parker’s play that led to the win.
”This was his best game in a while,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”He hasn’t really scored, he hasn’t been aggressive for whatever reason. He’s known it and he’s tried to work through it and put a finger on it, but tonight he played a complete game.”
Brandon Bass scored 16 and Kevin Garnett 14 for the Celtics, who managed just one offensive rebound and lost for the third time in four games.
Boston hopes to get its defense fixed before it faces Oklahoma City, another Western Conference power, at home on Friday, and Garnett knows the team’s defensive reputation has taken a hit.
”It damages it a little bit. But you know what? It’s not going to be the first time,” he said. ”Good offenses always get the best of a better defense, I feel.”
The Spurs closed the third quarter with a 6-0 run, with Splitter getting a pair of baskets, to take an 82-74 lead.
They opened the fourth by scoring eight of the initial 10 points to open their biggest lead at that point, 90-76 on Splitter’s three-point play with just under 10 minutes to play.
Splitter’s two free throws increased it to 94-78 with 8:41 to go.
Boston closed the gap to nine, but the Spurs had a pair of easy driving baskets by Parker to maintain a comfortable margin.
That was until Rondo answered with a long jumper from the right corner off his own steal and a spinning bank shot, closing it to 104-98 with 3:17 left.
But that was as close as Boston would get.
Duncan had five points during a 9-0 spree that gave the Spurs a 69-60 edge midway into the third quarter. Boston then scored seven of the next nine, closing it to two on Pierce’s 3 from the right wing.
Rondo was responsible either with an assist, basket or pass for all the Celtics’ 23 points in the opening 8 1/2 minutes of the third quarter. He had eight assists, two baskets and fed Pierce, who got fouled in the lane before hitting two free throws.
In the quarter, the Celtics’ playmaker had eight assists and two baskets – accounting for all but one of Boston’s buckets – Jeff Green’s drive.
In the first half, Parker dominated Rondo, scoring 15 on 7 for 10 shooting.
Neither team held more than a four-point lead until the Spurs scored 14 of the final 20 points in the first half to take a 56-48 edge into the break. Danny Green nailed a 3-pointer in the middle of the streak, giving him 30 straight games with at least one 3, the league’s longest current streak.
Notes: Rivers was asked before the game to compare the play of longtime stars Garnett, known for showing emotion, and the usually fairly stoic Duncan. ”They’re both extremely tough and extremely motivated. It’s amazing how similar they are and how different they act.” … Rivers also commented on Parker and Rondo before tip-off. ”They’re both terrific,” he said. ”It’s amazing how many good point guards there are in the league right now and you have to prepare for every one differently. It’s a good time in the league now for that position.” … The Spurs won the only meeting last season – 87-86 when Pierce missed a shot at the buzzer on an isolation over Duncan. … San Antonio played the first of a six-game road trip, which closes next Thursday in Miami.