The San Antonio Spurs keep thriving behind balanced offensive play, though one of their veterans showed he could still carry the load if necessary.
The injury-riddled New Orleans Pelicans could have a tough time slowing them down Friday night in a matchup between the NBA's second-best and second-worst teams.
San Antonio (9-2) won its sixth straight game Wednesday, beating Denver 109-98 behind Tony Parker's season-high 25 points. Parker's scoring average (12.8 ppg) has declined for the third straight season and is his lowest since he was a rookie, but he was 9 of 14 from the field against the Nuggets.
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He also had a season-high nine assists, and the team is assisting on 64.9 percent of its field goals, its highest mark since 1995-96.
“He got it going tonight,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 20. “Once he gets it going, he makes the game easier for all of us. All we're doing is catching and shooting. That is the easiest shot of the game.”
Parker's performance was particularly helpful on a night that LaMarcus Aldridge was 4 of 14 and Manu Ginobili sat for the second time in three games with a sore hip. Ginobili will miss this contest and be re-evaluated before Saturday's contest with Memphis.
Leonard or Aldridge had led the Spurs in scoring in every previous game. Leonard's 21.4 points per game are a team high, while four others average at least 11.4.
“It doesn't matter (who scores) on this team,” Parker said. “It depends what's going on, who's hot, who's got the advantage in matchup. … It doesn't matter, we just want to win a championship.”
San Antonio has also played well defensively, limiting teams to 91.3 points per game, and held Denver to 38.8 percent shooting.
The Pelicans (1-11), whose record is better than only winless Philadelphia, have had trouble stopping anyone. They allow a league-worst 109.9 points per game.
They lost 110-103 at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night – their fifth consecutive defeat – as Anthony Davis missed his third game of the season, this time with a shoulder injury from Tuesday's loss to Denver. The lone victory was a 120-105 win against Dallas on Nov. 10.
Coach Alvin Gentry remains optimistic despite the ragged start, and alluded specifically to the Thunder missing out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker with New Orleans last season after a 3-12 start.
“It is a really long NBA season and very few teams go through a whole season without having some difficulty somewhere along the line,” he said. “I do think that when we get healthy, we'll be a pretty good basketball team. I don't have any doubt about that.”
Gentry could only dress nine players and used his 11th different starting lineup because of injuries. The Pelicans were without Omer Asik (stomach illness), Norris Cole (sprained ankle) and Kendrick Perkins (right pectoral), while Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday remain sidelined with knee and lower leg injuries, respectively.
Ryan Anderson's season-high 30 points led New Orleans, and he's 23 for 42 from the field in his last two games.
“I felt like we got everything that we possibly could,” Gentry said. “I thought we played hard and I thought we competed like crazy.”
The Pelicans took the season series for the first time by winning three of four meetings in 2014-15.