Parker solid in return, sparks Spurs to fourth straight win in reserve role

SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili made one acrobatic layup after another. Tony Parker zipped a no-look assist, then sank a tough jumper as an encore. Tim Duncan did what he always does.

The gang in San Antonio is finally back together.

After surviving the first month with only pieces of their Big Three -- and actually faring better than most figured -- the Spurs reunited Parker, Duncan and Ginobili for the first time this season in a 109-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Parker had 15 points and seven assists after a three-week absence, fearlessly charging toward the basket and faking out defenders like he did before missing the past nine games with a sprained ankle.

The Spurs pushed their season-high win streak to four and have won eight of 10 following a horrid 1-4 outset -- an atypically clunky start that had some wondering if it was the beginning of the end for an NBA legacy.

But against Memphis, it looked like old times in San Antonio.

"His rhythm looked good," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his All-Star point guard. "He's back."

O.J. Mayo scored 32 points for Memphis, beaten by San Antonio for the second time this week. The Grizzlies dropped their fifth straight and have lost nine of 10 as the struggle continues for one of the NBA's youngest teams.

Memphis trotted out a starting lineup with a combined eight years of NBA experience; five belonging to Darko Milicic, who had 11 points.

The Spurs countered with, well, the same old Spurs -- old in years, but tough to match with Parker, Ginobili and Duncan.

Parker came off the bench in his first game back since Nov. 7, when he rolled his ankle in a loss to Miami. The game was the low point in the early stages for San Antonio, which was still missing Ginobili at the time.

Ginobili returned Monday and scored 14 points Friday in his third game back. Parker played 16 minutes and hit six of nine shots, including a handful of defense-splitting bursts that suggested no sign of a ginger ankle.

"It feels great. It's great to be back," Parker said. "When you're out for three weeks you only think about getting back on the court, and try to have fun and try to help the team win."

Roger Mason, who started for Parker at point guard, scored 20 points and was one of six Spurs in double figures.

Memphis got 26 points from Rudy Gay and came within three points of the Spurs in the fourth quarter before falling behind for good. The Grizzlies only got four points from their bench; San Antonio got 64 thanks in large part to Parker and Ginobili.

"I have never seen such a deficit like that before," Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said.

Now 9-6, the Spurs are in far better shape than most figured after Parker went down against the Heat.

The Spurs struggled to find any offensive punch beyond Duncan and Parker during their slow start, and their once-reliable defense had crumbled into one of the league's worst.

After Parker rolled his ankle, the future looked only more bleak.

But San Antonio instead got back to its defensive emphasis -- the Spurs entered Friday ranked fourth in points allowed -- and George Hill emerged as one of the NBA's most surprising rookies. Hill scored 12 points against Memphis.

Parker made his debut in the second quarter, and he didn't exactly slowly ease himself into the game. He was called for offensive charging on his first drive to the basket, hit a jumper the next time down and then made a pair of dazzling assists.

The second was a no-look pass to Fabricio Oberto, who finished the highlight-reel play with an easy layup that seemed to remind a raucous crowd what they might have took for granted when Parker was healthy.

"Now we have so many options, it's going to be tough for teams," said Mason, who figures to return to the bench soon once Parker reclaims his starting role. "I think it's a good problem to have. That's two All-Stars that came off the bench tonight. I don't know how many teams can say that."

Game notes
Memphis guard Quinton Ross left the game with a sore left foot and did not return. The extent of his injury was unclear. ... Iavaroni was facing his former team, having played for San Antonio from 1984-86. ...The Spurs have won 12 of the last 14 meetings against the Grizzlies.