Parker, Leonard help Spurs snap 4-game skid, beat short-handed Kings
In good times and bad, Tony Parker’s play has often been cited as a way to measure the state of the San Antonio Spurs during the last decade.
Parker has no problem with that responsibility. He expects to lift the Spurs to the same level he has during four of their five NBA championship runs, and he fully acknowledges, healthy or not, he hasn’t always lived up to his high standard this season.
Parker began to break of his recent slump Friday night, helping the Spurs snap a four-game losing streak with a 107-96 victory over the short-handed Sacramento Kings. He sparked the decisive run in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"You just have to man up and keep playing," Parker said, adding that he had a "great talk" with coach Gregg Popovich a day earlier that helped him refocus.
Kawhi Leonard added 17 points and seven rebounds as San Antonio avoided its first five-game skid since late in the 2010-11 season with an efficient and aggressive performance.
The Spurs had just six turnovers and made 29 of 32 free throws, offsetting a night in which they shot below 40 percent from the floor. They credited the steady steering to their 32-year-old point guard, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury.
"That was huge for us. That was huge for him," said Spurs stalwart Tim Duncan, who had 12 points and six boards. "I know he’s been really hard on himself over these last couple games and really struggling, and hopefully that builds the confidence he needs and that we need him to have."
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins sat out with a sprained left ankle and bruised left hip, and point guard Darren Collison missed his eighth consecutive game as he prepares to have surgery on a core muscle injury that will sideline him at least another month.
Sacramento still showed plenty of fight under new coach George Karl.
Ben McLemore scored 21 points, Ray McCallum had 20 and Rudy Gay added 16 for the Kings, who were coming off an impressive home win over Memphis on Wednesday night.
Sacramento shot 48 percent but had 17 turnovers against the Spurs. The Kings also finished 1 of 4 from 3-point range, while San Antonio shot 8 for 23 from beyond the arc.
Sacramento started strong and stayed close until the Spurs pulled away behind one big burst. Parker scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, and Manu Ginobili hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to cap a 16-4 spurt that put the Spurs up 100-88 with 4:06 to play.
"I just think the effort, the energy and the intensity we had was first class," Karl said. "But the basketball IQ in the fourth quarter? I am not saying it was bad, but it sure wasn’t good."
Karl warned his team to treat San Antonio as the defending NBA champions and not a team on a four-game skid in February. Karl even suggested the Spurs were "playing possum," saying San Antonio has gone through regular-season slumps before only to roll through the playoffs.
That was certainly the way things played out.
Sacramento surged ahead 20-10 behind a streaky shooting start. The Spurs struggled to find their stroke, but they never let the Kings stretch their lead.
San Antonio stayed aggressive, consistently getting to the free throw line and getting Carl Landry, who started in Cousins’ place, to pick up his fourth foul late in the second quarter. The Spurs ended the half with a flurry, going ahead 49-46 at the break despite shooting just 34.8 percent.
The teams traded scores most of the third quarter. San Antonio led 80-78 entering the fourth, when Parker & Co. pulled away for good.
Spurs: San Antonio improved to 3-5 on its nine-game rodeo trip. … The Spurs are 15-16 on the road. They were a league-best 30-11 away from home last season.
Kings: The Kings dropped to 2-11 when Cousins has sat out this season. … Sacramento fell to 2-2 since Karl took over as coach.
Spurs center Tiago Splitter started for the first time since Jan. 31. He had six points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.
The Kings honored former players Doug Christie, Scot Pollard and Bobby Jackson as part of the team’s season-long Legends Series, which is celebrating the franchise’s 30 years in Sacramento. All three attended the game and highlights of them were periodically shown on the video board.
Spurs: At Phoenix on Saturday.
Kings: Host Portland on Sunday.