Leonard, Spurs beat Grizzlies after Parker leaves
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have maintained that records and winning streaks do not matter as much as staying healthy and becoming consistent on offense and defense.
The consistency has been there, but the Spurs are once again dealing with an injury.
Kawhi Leonard matched his career high with 26 points, Manu Ginobili had a season-high 26 and San Antonio eased to a 112-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday after losing Tony Parker to injury.
Parker’s status is unknown after he was forced to leave with back spasms early in the first quarter.
“They’re going to MRI his back tomorrow,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know.”
The All-Star point guard took a hard fall as he drove the lane, landing squarely on his back near the free throw line after being fouled by Memphis’ Mike Conley with 7:38 left. Parker remained on the court for about a minute, but rose and continued playing before exiting with2:41 remaining in the first.
Tim Duncan added 13 points for San Antonio (60-17), which bounced back after its franchise-record, 19-game winning streak was snapped Thursday in Oklahoma City.
San Antonio reduced its magic number to claim the league’s best record to three while winning at least 60 games for the fifth time in franchise history.
“Wins are wins, but all of us want to be the last team standing,” Popovich said. “That’s all that’s really important to about six, or seven, or eight teams.”
The Spurs showed their focus heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, capturing their 20th double-digit victory since Feb. 26.
“You’ve got these guys (in) San Antonio that are in the playoffs for sure, but are playing like they’re out of it,” Grizzlies forward James Johnson said.
Johnson had 20 points and Conley added 18 points for Memphis (45-32), which is chasing a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol shot a combined 6 for 16, finishing with eight and six points, respectively.
Parker finished with 10 points, going 4 for 4 from the field with an assist in nine minutes.
He waved for team physician Dr. Paul Saenz as he walked through the tunnel to go back to the locker room. San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford soon followed.
Parker has missed 10 games this season, including sitting out the Spurs’ game Feb. 6 in Brooklyn with tightness in his lower back. He has battled various leg injuries this season, but also sat out seven games due to what was listed as “rest.”
“Hopefully it’s nothing,” Ginobili said. “He was just sore in his lower back. We just have to hope it’s a couple-of-days thing. Of course, we’re a different team without him. We need him healthy and strong for the playoffs.”
Leonard took over offensively with Parker out, showing off his expanding offensive game with a series of driving layups, pull-up jumpers and going 2 for 2 on 3-pointers. The 6-foot-7, third-year forward was 12 for 13 from the field.
″(He’s) a lot more confident behind the arc and his pull-up,” Spurs wing Danny Green said. “And when he’s making shots, it makes us that much more dangerous as a team.”
Leonard’s 3-pointer with 5:53 remaining in the game matched the career-high 26 points he set against Chicago on Feb. 11, 2013. He left the game after the 3-pointer.
“I just made shots tonight, I didn’t really miss,” Leonard said. “As of lately, I’m just knocking down shots. My teammates are looking for me. I’m just going out there and having good results.
Even with Parker out, San Antonio continued its fluid ball movement. The Spurs had 27 assists, with four players finishing with at least four and all but one of 13 who played picking up an assist.
Parker was extremely active during his short night, helping the team overcome a lethargic start.
After San Antonio missed its first two shots, Parker drove the lane for one of his teardrop shots, worked his way through screens for 21- and 17-foot jumpers and made a pair of free throws as part of a 12-2 opening run for San Antonio.
Parker later drove left into the lane, spinning away from Conley and between a closing Randolph to scoop in a layup with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
NOTES: San Antonio has three games remaining away from the AT&T Center, but has already secured the league’s best road record. The Spurs are 29-9 entering a two-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Minnesota and ends Thursday at Dallas. Their final road game is April 14 against Houston. . Randolph received the loudest boos among Memphis’ starters during pregame introductions, as San Antonio fans apparently still remember the bruising postseason battles between the two clubs.