Tony Parker appreciates San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s conservation plan.
During this condensed NBA season, Parker said Popovich is rarely allowing anyone to play more than 40 minutes, a strategy that contributed to the Spurs’ 89-84 victory Monday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Parker, playing 36 minutes, scored 21 points, and Tim Duncan added 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds in 32 minutes.
“I think Pop tries to keep us fresh,” Parker said. “It’s rare that me, or anyone, plays 40 minutes. Over the course of the season, if you have to play 38 or 40 minutes a game, it’s tough. It takes its toll.”
Memphis, minus Zach Randolph indefinitely and Tony Allen the past two games, was forced to use starters Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley for 40-plus minutes. Gasol had 22 points to lead the Grizzlies, while Conley scored 19 and Gay 18.
Gay said the Grizzlies, who lost their third straight, expended their energy fighting back from a 14-point first-half deficit to take a six-point lead entering the final quarter.
“It was tough,” Gay said. “A couple of guys were fatigued from playing a lot of heavy minutes. It was one of those games that slipped away from us.”
The Grizzlies were outscored 22-11 in the fourth quarter. The 11 points represented a season low for a single quarter.
“We made some shots and got some stops [to rally],” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “Then in the fourth quarter, we couldn’t make a shot anymore.”
Memphis didn’t have an answer for Duncan in the second half. He scored 13 of his points after the half as the Spurs opened a nine-game road trip with a win, their fifth straight. The Grizzlies led 73-67 entering the final period, but missed their first nine shots to allow the Spurs to recover and take an 87-81 lead with 1:18 to go.
Duncan also had two key blocks in the closing minute as the Spurs clung to an 87-84 lead. He first blocked Gay’s layup attempt with 32 seconds left and followed with a block of Gasol’s close-range attempt 10 seconds later.
“He is somebody who is pretty special,” Popovich said. “The blocks were pretty good down the stretch. Those kinds of things are what he does.”
Parker said Duncan has been playing at a high level recently. It was Duncan’s second straight double-double. He had 13 points and 15 rebounds Saturday in a win over Oklahoma City.
“He’s feeling good,” Parker said. “His knee is doing well. Hopefully, he can stay like that. That’s a great game from Timmy — 19 [points] and 17 [rebounds].”
The Grizzlies trailed by 13 at 61-48 early in the third quarter, but rallied behind a 25-6 run to end the period. Memphis took its first lead of the second half, at 66-63, on O.J. Mayo’s 3-pointer with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.
Hitting five of seven 3-pointers in the first half, San Antonio led by as many as 14 late in the second quarter. Matt Bonner and Gary Neal connected on two 3-pointers apiece and Kawhi Leonard had the other.