Game rewind: Rested TP heads to All-Star Game with a flourish

The extra night of rest clearly benefitted Tony Parker Thursday night in Denver.

After missing Tuesday’s blowout loss in Portland, Parker picked up where he left off earlier in the Rodeo Road Trip.

Parker wasn’t the Spurs’ primary scorer, but he still had a pivotal role in the Spurs’ 114-99 victory at Denver. 

He continued his recent spree of the best basketball of his career, notching 16 points and 12 assists. It marked his fourth straight game with double figures in scoring and assists — a feat he accomplished for the first time in his career.

“That’s the best I’ve ever seen Tony Parker orchestrate a game,” Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters after the game. “He was really great with his decisions and his passing.”

His passing helped DeJuan Blair match his career high with 28 points and Richard Jefferson notch 17 points in one of his three highest scoring games of the year.

Tim Duncan also was back. His return, along with the rest, helped the Spurs to their 12th victory in 13 games.

“It was great to have Tony and Tim back,” Blair told after the game. “We fed off of them — or they fed off of me today.”

Here’s how the Spurs jumped on Denver for their best first half of the season and cruised to the victory to cap the Rodeo Road Trip.

The game, simply stated: The Spurs blitzed the injury-riddled Nuggets, pushing their lead to 28 points late in the first half before finishing off a convincing victory to punctuate the longest road trip in Spurs history.

Where the game was won: The Spurs started early as Duncan hit a 15-foot jumper and Jefferson added a 3-pointer to give them a 5-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. 

Blowing it open: After rookie Kenneth Faried pulled Denver within 7-6 on a layup, the Spurs erupted on a 19-1 run that included back-to-back three-point plays by Danny Green and a layup by Blair that gave them a 26-7 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter.    

Player of the game I: Blair produced a career-high tying 28 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals in his biggest offensive performance of the season.

Player of the game II: Gregg Popovich tried to give Duncan the fourth quarter off, although a late Denver rally ended those hopes. Duncan returned  to play 5:19 in the fourth quarter and finished with a strong all-around game with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

Player of the game III: Denver forward Corey Brewer  was shut out in the first half and was briefly taken to the locker room for treatment of an ankle injury. The rest apparently helped him as he returned to score all of his team-high 23 points in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter.

Most unsung: Jefferson had a strong night with 17 points and a season-high eight rebounds. He was a perimeter threat throughout the game, hitting five 3-pointers with one in at least every quarter.

Attendance: The Nuggets trotted out their old ABA uniforms and 18,875 turned out to watch them their old ABA rivals at the Pepsi Center. It was their sixth-largest crowd of the season and just below the building’s capacity of 19,155. It was also the Nuggets’ largest weeknight crowd since opening day.

Did you notice I: The best sign of the Spurs’ balance was apparent when every starter was in double  figures in scoring with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.

Did you notice II:  After struggling in the paint against Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers in their last two games, the Spurs made a concerted effort to go inside from the beginning of Thursday’s game against the Nuggets. San Antonio notched a 14-4 edge in the paint in the first quarter and a 12-4 edge in the second quarter en route to a 26-8 edge in paint points in the first half.

Did you notice III: In the final minutes of the game, Duncan briefly was on the court with rookie guard Cory Joseph and rookie center Eric Dawson. We likely won’t see that playing combination together very often.

Stat of the game I:  The Spurs finished off the Rodeo Road Trip 8-1, matching the team’s best RRT record in 2003.  It also tied the NBA’s best won-loss percentage on any road trip of at least eight games in league history.

Stat of the game II: Thursday’s win capped a recent surge where the Spurs have won 12 of 13 games and move ahead of Dallas by three games in the Southwest Division.

Stat of the game III:  San Antonio produced 31 points in the first quarter, marking their second big start against the Nuggets this season after scoring a season-best 37 points against them in San Antonio on Jan. 7. The Spurs also tied their season best with 34 points in the second quarter en route to a season-best 65 points in the first half.

Stat of the game IV: The Spurs’ 65-39 halftime lead (26 points) was tied for the biggest halftime lead of the season. They had a 26-point halftime lead against Dallas (55-29) on Jan. 5.

Stat of the game V: A key for the Spurs during the Rodeo Road Trip has been their quick offensive starts. The Spurs hit 52 percent from the field in the first quarter and 54.5 percent in the second quarter. They accomplished at least 50 percent shooting in both quarters four times during the nine-game swing.

Weird stat of the game I: During a stretch of 17:37 including the final 7:26 of the Nuggets’ loss to the Clippers Wednesday night and the first 10:11 against the Spurs, Denver hit 2 of 28 shots from the field (7.1 percent)

Weird stat of the game II: The Nuggets are 9-8 at home this season after losing eight games there during the entire season there last year.

Weird stat of the game III: For the third time in his career, Blair matched his career high with 21 field goal attempts. In those three  games, Blair has averaged 27.6 points per game.

Weird stat of the game IV: The Spurs matched their largest lead of the season at 28 points at two junctures of the second quarter. Their other 28-point lead came Jan. 5 against Dallas.

Weird stat  of the game V: The Spurs never trailed in the game, marking the fifth time this season they led wire-to-wire. The most recent game where they never trailed was Feb. 15 at Toronto.

Not a good sign: After dominating the game in the first half, the Spurs struggled in their transition game and in stopping Denver’s transition game in the second half. The Nuggets outscored the Spurs in fast-break points in the second half, 16-4.

Best plus/minus scores: Green was plus-20, Duncan was plus-18 and Parker was plus-12.

Worst plus/minus scores: Joseph was minus-2 and James Anderson was minus-1. They were the only San Antonio players with minus scores.

Quote of the game:  ”Considering what they had to go through, not just with injuries but the schedule they just had, having to play tonight, it wasn’t a fair fight,” Popovich, to reporters on playing the injury-depleted and road-weary Nuggets.

How the schedule stacks up: After the All-Star break, the Spurs start a seven-game homestand with games Wednesday against Chicago, March 2 against Charlotte and March 4 against Denver. The Nuggets return to host Portland on Wednesday before traveling to Houston on March 2 and the Spurs on March 4.

Injuries: Manu Ginobili (strained left oblique muscle) and Tiago Splittler (strained right calf) missed their third games (Spurs 2-1) since they were injured Saturday at the Clippers. T.J. Ford missed his 24th game (Spurs record 18-6) with a torn left hamstring. Kawhi Leonard experienced tightness in both calves after playing 2:05 in the first quarter and did not return. He is still expected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night in Orlando. Denver played without G Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain), F-C Danilo Gallinari (sprained left ankle), F-C Nene (left calf strain) and G Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain).

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