Parker's 42 powers Spurs past NBA-best Thunder
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By PAUL J. WEBER
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tony Parker wasn't playing for an All-Star invitation. He made a strong case just the same.
Putting together his most dazzling game in three years - and doing it against the NBA's hottest team, no less - Parker scored 42 points and became the all-time franchise assists leader for the San Antonio Spurs in a 107-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.
His nine assists moved him past Avery Johnson in Spurs history, but this night wasn't about his passing. Parker joined Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Anthony Morrow and LeBron James as the only NBA players to eclipse 40 points in a game this season.
Bryant, Howard and James were chosen All-Star starters this week. Reserves are announced Thursday.
If Parker's name wasn't in the mix before, it almost certainly is now.
"I would like to go again eventually," said Parker, a three-time All-Star who hasn't been since 2009. "We'll see what happens."
All-Star Kevin Durant had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City (18-5), which was headed for its first blowout loss of the season before closing a 24-point deficit in the fourth. The convincing win over the NBA's winningest team was just the springboard San Antonio needed before spending next three weeks on the road - where the Spurs have hardly been as dominant.
The Thunder has jumped ahead of the rest of the NBA, in part, by being the best road team. But this time they ran straight into the NBA's best home team, which was never clearer than in the third quarter when the Spurs tripled an 8-point lead in a span of 8 1/2 minutes.
Parker's most electrifying game since scoring 43 in a playoff win over Dallas in 2009 saw to that.
"Coming off pick and rolls, (Parker) was getting to the rim," Durant said. "He is so quick and he was beating our bigs to the lane sometimes. It's tough for our bigs to guard someone as fast as Tony."
Parker, who's spent all his 11 years in the NBA in San Antonio, now has 4,477 career assists. He scored 16 points in the third, going 6 for 9 from the floor and sinking all four of his foul shots. In a game worthy of a standing ovation, his came before it was even over - with 2:28 left in the third, when he surpassed the franchise assists record that Johnson had held since 2001.
The record dish fittingly came on a pick-and-roll with Tim Duncan, his longtime co-pilot in San Antonio's last three championships. And up against the NBA's top team, the duo looked as though they didn't even miss Manu Ginobili, who's missed the last month with a broken hand.
Parker was 16 of 29 from the floor, made 10 of 12 free throws and upped his scoring average to 18 points.
"(Parker) knew he had to have a big game tonight, and we knew we had to score points against these guys," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Duncan had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie Kawhi Leonard, getting his starting job back so he could guard Durant, added 15 points and hit all three of his 3-pointers. San Antonio's four-game winning streak is its longest all season.
"Tony Parker had his way with us," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's as aggressive as I've seen him in a long time."
At times, it was an intense start to the Thunder's five-game road trip. A scramble for a loose ball between Parker and Westbrook in the second quarter escalated into a quick scrape of swats and kicks, with Parker getting whistled for a personal foul and Westbrook shoving aside the Frenchman's leg so he could get up.
Parker, visibly annoyed, was pulled off the pile by Blair, and the players on the Thunder's bench sprung to their feet. Parker responded by darting full steam on a fast break and drawing a foul at the rim. One possession later, Parker hit a tough 17-footer falling away, adding to an entire game's worth of highlights.
The Spurs improved to 13-1 at home, best in the NBA. But they'll now play their next nine away from the AT&T Center as part of their annual Rodeo Road Trip. San Antonio is 3-8 on the road.
NOTES: Thunder G Thebo Sefolosha missed his fourth consecutive game with a sore right foot. ... Following Thursday's win over New Orleans, Popovich ridiculed a reporter who suggested that 7-footer Tiago Splitter attempted anything but layups, saying his last jumper was probably in Spain in 2003. Two nights later? Splitter badly missed a 13-foot fadeaway with the shot clock running down.
Updated February 5, 2012