Spurs' close win over Knicks could prove beneficial

SAN ANTONIO -- It appeared the San Antonio Spurs might pull off another blowout.

Tony Parker nailed a 17-footer with 5:27 left, pushing San Antonio’s lead over the New York Knicks to 12. Then, in fewer than three minutes, the Knicks poured in nine quick points to move within three on a Carmelo Anthony jumper.

“There was a moment when we were up 12-14 [points], and we missed like four or five shots -- like they were good shots in a row, and then they got a couple plays,” Manu Ginobili explained.

Eventually the Spurs outlasted the Knicks to win 100-99 on Friday, as Jose Calderon's potential game winner was off the mark with time expiring.

The Spurs needed this.

Considering they scored 120 points or more in three consecutive outings going into Friday’s game, they needed to triumph in a hotly contested matchup, which could prove beneficial for the club down the line in the postseason. The difficult matchups continue against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 14, after road outings Monday and Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons.

“New York has been playing very well,” said Parker, who despite sitting out the previous two games scored 16 points to go with eight assists. “They made it tough on us. All night long, they made some big shots to stay in the game.”

San Antonio expected a difficult game. Parker said the team “practiced a little bit hard for [coach Gregg Popovich’s] standards” on Thursday “to prepare against New York” because “we knew they were playing well.”

Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony combined for 48 points and 23 rebounds, as the Knicks led by as many as nine points in a game that featured 13 lead changes and seven ties.

“It was a great game,” Parker said. “And it was good for us to have those kinds of games so that we can work on plays and execution in the fourth quarter.”

In reeling off its 31st consecutive regular-season win at the AT&T Center, San Antonio racked up 60 points in the paint, which marked the team’s third straight game in which it produced at least that many points down low. Kawhi Leonard led the team with his sixth double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks), while Parker, Ginobili and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 16 points each.

“It’s always good to be in close games, to try to learn how to execute and focus on the things you know you need to be better at during the year,” Aldridge said. “I thought guys competed tonight. I thought we made plays when we had to. They made some tough shots down the stretch, but I thought our guys stuck with it.”

The Spurs connected on just 36 percent of their attempts in the first quarter, but improved to 47.8 percent in the second quarter on the way to outscoring the Knicks 26-19 to go into halftime leading 52-49. The Knicks started the second half with four straight points to go back in front, and the lead would change hands eight times in the third quarter.

The Spurs have now scored 100 points or more in seven consecutive games, and in 14 of their past 15 games, while defeating their past four opponents (prior to the Knicks) by 18 points or more.

“I was kind of enjoying [the blowout wins],” Ginobili said. “It’s not bad to win games like that. Nothing is easy in the NBA, but we knew today in facing the Knicks that they were playing great, feeling good about themselves, shooting well, and we had to play much better to get this win. I think we did.”