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'Big Three' back, lead Spurs past Grizzlies in OT

The SportsXchange

SAN ANTONIO -- Maybe the San Antonio Spurs are better with their stars after all.

The Spurs were almost back to their full complement Saturday night, and they needed all the help they could get to rally past the hard-charging Memphis Grizzles 99-95 in overtime at the AT&T Center.

The Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili returned, along with Danny Green, after famously being sent home for some R&R by coach Gregg Popovich, and the Spurs got big contributions from their famed trio to beat the NBA-leading Grizzlies. But when they lost the lead in the third quarter, the Spurs' bench showed again that they're capable of good things. Gary Neal was the Spurs' only starter on the floor to start the fourth.

"I thought that group gave us a spark," Popovich said. "They got real aggressive offensively and they did a great job defensively. They got us back in the ball game with their energy."

Duncan and Parker combined for 57 points, and Ginobili hit a 3-pointer with a minute left in regulation that tied the game at 87 and sent it to OT.

In overtime, Parker scored eight of his 30 points. Ginobili had one of his season-high six steals and fed Parker for a layup that gave the Spurs a 91-90 lead with 3:33 left, the Spurs' first lead since early in the third quarter.

Trailing 97-95 with 11.8 seconds left, Memphis' Jerryd Bayless grabbed a rebound and threw a full-court pass that flew over Rudy Gay's outstretched hands, and Tony Parker hit two of four free throws on the other end to clinch the win.

Memphis, which entered the game with an NBA-best 12-2 record, seemed to have a firm grasp on a victory as it built a 15-point lead late in the third.

"We had them under control," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. "They brought in a smaller unit, picked up the pace of the game, and then it became a possession game. It came down to a couple of possessions. Give them credit."

The Spurs' bench, which got major floor time in San Antonio's loss at Miami Thursday night, sparked a comeback.

Patty Mills had a steal and layup to end the quarter, then hit a 3-pointer a couple of minutes into the fourth quarter before stealing the ball from Quincy Pondexter for another layup to pull the Spurs to 76-67 with 8:48 left in regulation.

That sequence gave the Spurs a much-needed spark after a lackluster third quarter in which they were outscored 27-15.

The Grizzlies' own Big Three played well, with Marc Gasol scoring 20 points, Zach Randolph 17 and Gay 15.

With all eyes in the NBA on the controversy between the Spurs and commissioner David Stern, the Grizzlies quietly stayed on top of the Western Conference standings and ahead of the Spurs 46-45 at the half.

Gasol, Randolph and Gay led a collective effort by the Grizzlies, combining for 25 points. The Grizzlies have been noted for their defensive prowess this season, and that was on display as they held the Spurs to 18-of-45 shooting (40 percent), including 0-for-11 from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili almost did it all for the Spurs. The trio combined for 17 of the Spurs' 18 first-half field goals. Tiago Splitter scored the only other field goal for the Spurs.

NOTES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spoke about the $250,000 fine levied against the team by commissioner David Stern. "I was disappointed by the action," he said. "But what I do from my perspective is a coaching perspective. I think what the league does is from a business perspective, and that's reflected in the action they took." Popovich also declined to discuss whether or not the Spurs will appeal the fine, saying those discussions will be done privately. He said he didn't discuss with the league how to handle resting players in the future. ... Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard missed his ninth consecutive game with a left knee injury. ... The Grizzlies' 12-1 record in November marked their most successful month by winning percentage. ... Guard Tony Allen missed his second consecutive game for the Grizzlies with a groin injury.
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