Let's face it: The Spurs' 100-98 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night wasn't exactly the kind that will engender much confidence in the Silver and Black before they embark on a three-game road trip against some of the best teams in the league.
But while the Spurs struggled to eke out a win against a team that has the worst record in the NBA and lost its 14th consecutive game, there's no such thing as an ugly win. A win is a win. Period.
Point guard Tony Parker turned back the clock, coming off the bench to score a season-high 23 points in 26 minutes and lead the Spurs to a nail-biter of a win they absolutely had to have to stay in the Western Conference playoff race.
"I just tried to be aggressive, and a lot of stuff went my way tonight," Parker said. "We needed to get a win somehow. We've been struggling lately, so I'm feeling good just to get a win."
Parker, 35, scored his 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting. He also dished out four assists.
The victory snapped a four-game losing skid for the Spurs at the AT&T Center, where they hadn't won since pulling out a 106-104 win over Denver on Jan. 30.
The Silver and Black had squandered fourth-quarter leads in losses to New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers in their last two games. They had lost six of their previous seven games, and had blown fourth-quarter leads in five of those six defeats.
"Well, because we won didn't mean we had better effort in one quarter than the others," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They tied just as hard in all the quarters as the fourth. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. But effort is not the deal.
"We didn't make many shots. They had a tough time shooting it and the fourth quarter we played a little bit better defense than we have. But we still make it tough on ourselves. But we got the win and that's what matters."
San Antonio (37-27) inched up to fifth in the West standings with the victory after starting the game in sixth place. The Spurs lead No. 7 Minnesota (38-28) by percentage points.
The Silver and Black play their next three games on the road, starting with defending league champion Golden State on Thursday. S.A. plays at Oklahoma City on Saturday and Houston next Monday.
San Antonio wouldn't have beaten Memphis (18-45) without Parker, who hurt the Grizzlies with his drives to the basket and his jumper. He scored eighth consecutive points on four baskets in a span of 1:50 to put the Spurs ahead to stay.
His first of the four buckets came on a layup, breaking an 85-85 tie. Center Marc Gasol, who led Memphis with 23 points, hit a 13-foot turnaround fade-away on the subsequent possession to tie the game again.
Parker's 15-foot pull-up basket put San Antonio on top to stay, 89-87, with 5:19 left. He scored the Spurs next two baskets to give them a 93-87 lead at the 4:03 mark.
Parker also had a hot hand after replacing starting point guard Dejounte Murray earlier than usual in the first quarter. He checked into the game in the first three minutes and gave the Spurs instant offense, scoring the team's next nine points to put them up 15-14. Parker led all scorers in the first half with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
With the Silver and Black offense struggling, did Parker make a conscious decision to put the team on his back and try to carry it to victory?
"Not really, not really. Not early on," Parker said. "More the fourth quarter when they were coming back. Early on, coming off the bench sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't go your way. Tonight, Pop put me in really early. I didn't play nine minutes in a row the whole season. I' m pretty sure about that, because I was dying after the first quarter. I was surprised."
Davis Bertans and Danny Green scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, for the Spurs. Kyle Anderson (11) rounded out the team's double-figure scoring. All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who returned to the lineup after spraining his right ankle against New Orleans last Wednesday, finished with only seven points in 31 minutes.
"Kyle, Tony and Davis were all threat tonight," Popovich said. "They all played really well."
Center Marc Gasol (23) and guard Dillon Brooks (21) led Memphis. Gasol is the younger brother of Spurs center Pau Gasol, who injured a shoulder and finished with just two points. Parker said he didn't think Gasol would play against Golden State.
The Silver and Black shot 46.1 percent (35/76) for the game and were 6 of 22 from the three-point line. Green nailed 3 of 4 three-pointers. Memphis shot 52.5 percent (42-80) and made 8 of 22 attempts from long distance.
Except Parker, the Spurs were stone cold in the first half, shooting only 37.2 percent (16/43) and making just 2 of 11 shots from beyond the arc.
Memphis shot well in the first half, hitting 20 of 39 attempts for 51.3 percent. Gasol led the Grizzlies scoring with 10 points before the break.