SAN ANTONIO — It’s easy to see why Tony Parker is headed to another All-Star game.
Parker had 31 points and seven assists, and the San Antonio Spurs earned their eighth consecutive win by shutting down the Phoenix Suns in the final quarter for a 108-99 victory on Saturday night.
“He is unbelievable,” said teammate Manu Ginobili, who had 20 points. “I cannot say he became a fourth-quarter finisher this year because of how he played last year, especially in the first two months. But he is in that point of his career where he is so confident. He is doing so good that he can relax a little bit in the first half then when we need him, he starts making those jumpers and takes over.”
Tiago Splitter had 13 points and Boris Diaw finished with 11 for San Antonio (36-11), which has won 16 in a row at home.
Michael Beasley had 25 points and Jared Dudley scored 23 for the Suns (15-29), who lost for the first time since coach Lindsey Hunter took over.
“He’s their best player,” Dudley said of Parker. “He’s their best offensive threat. He knows their offense. If they don’t have him, I know the Spurs are always good, but they can’t win without him.”
Playing without Tim Duncan (sore knee) and coach Gregg Popovich (illness) for a third consecutive game, the Spurs needed a clutch performance from Parker in the fourth and he stepped up again.
Showing no ill effects from a blow to the head by Elton Brand that required three stitches during a 113-107 victory at Dallas on Friday night, Parker had 11 points and five assists as San Antonio outscored Phoenix 27-17 in the fourth, forcing six turnovers in the period. The speedy point guard finished 13 for 17 from the field and only had three turnovers in 34 minutes.
The Spurs turned up their defensive pressure in the final period, forcing three turnovers and three missed shots while building a 96-88 lead with 6:21 remaining. Parker had four points and an assist in the 7-0 run, including racing down the court for a layup after stepping in front of a pass by Markieff Morris.
“Over the last few years it is becoming my team and coach Pop is always challenging me to become the franchise player who closes games and makes good decisions with the ball offensively for myself and my teammates,” Parker said. “I always take to heart Pop’s challenges.”
San Antonio grabbed control after Ginobili was knocked down by Shannon Brown with 31.4 seconds left in the third, leading to a flagrant foul and an ejection.
Brown struck Ginobili violently across the side of the head as he attempted to recover defensively after getting beat off the dribble. Ginobili also was undercut by Morris almost simultaneously, leading to loud jeers by the crowd. The ejection shocked Brown, who watched mouth agape as the foul was replayed on the video screen.
“I saw a clear path and I thought I was going to go to lay it up and then I felt that hit in the head and I did not know what happened,” Ginobili said. “I knew it was a flagrant foul, but I did not see what the player was doing.”
The play invigorated Ginobili, who had two steals and a 3 to bridge the third and fourth quarters and tie the game at 84.
Hunter refused to blame the foul for Phoenix’s struggles in the fourth.
“We talk about being a no-excuse organization and that’s no excuse,” he said. “We’re not at that level right now, but I can tell you this, it won’t be long before we are.”
Just as it did in Wednesday’s 106-102 victory over New Orleans, San Antonio struggled early.
The Spurs missed their first three shots while failing to score in the first 3 minutes. After Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each missed a 3, Parker scored on a layup after Goran Dragic fell while attempting to backpedal defensively.
The basket sparked the Spurs, who made their next 10 attempts in a 22-13 run. Parker scored 10 points during the run, including a layup that put San Antonio up 22-19 with 4 minutes left.
Beasley scored 10 points in the second quarter, including six during an 11-6 surge that put Phoenix ahead 49-48 with 4:21 left in the half.
“They have history,” Beasley said. “They just know how to win. The same guys have been here for the last hundred years. They know how to play with each other. They’ve won titles on top of titles. We’ve got to be able to take care of the ball, at the very least get a shot.”
76ERS 97, KNICKS 80
PHILADELPHIA — Jrue Holiday scored a career-high 35 points, Nick Young had 20 and the 76ers cruised to the victory.
Evan Turner also added 20 points for the Sixers, who led from the start and beat the Knicks for the first time in four tries and second in eight games.
Carmelo Anthony needed 28 shots to get 25 points. He has 28 straight 20-point games, tied with Patrick Ewing for second-longest streak in franchise history. Richie Guerin did it 29 games in a row in 1961-62.
The Atlantic Division-leading Knicks, who are second in the Eastern Conference, have lost five of eight.
Amare Stoudemire had 20 points for New York. Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith combined to go 0 for 17. Kidd had zero assists in 15 minutes.
ROCKETS 119, NETS 106
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 29 points, Chandler Parsons added 16 points and a career-high 11 assists and the Rockets beat the Nets for the 12th straight time.
Omer Asik had 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets, who outrebounded the Nets 50-31 and outscored Brooklyn 60-24 in the paint.
Nets star Deron Williams scored 27 points, but cooled off after a 20-point first quarter. He was ejected with 1:07 left after arguing a call with referee David Jones. Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Joe Johnson added 13 for Brooklyn.
Jeremy Lin had 14 points, nine assists and six turnovers for Houston.
CAVALIERS 99, RAPTORS 98
TORONTO — Kyrie Irving made a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to lift Cleveland to its third consecutive victory.
Headed to his first All-Star game, Irving added to his credentials by calmly draining a pull-up jumper from the top of the arc to give him 32 points on the night. Marreese Speights had 17 for the Cavaliers, and Tristan Thompson scored 14.
Toronto had five players score in double figures. Amir Johnson had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Alan Anderson scored 17 and Ed Davis finished with 16.
The Raptors had won seven of their previous nine meetings with the Cavaliers.
WIZARDS 86, BULLS 73
WASHINGTON — Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 16 rebounds, helping the Wizards to another victory.
Nene scored 16 points and John Wall had 15 for Washington, which has won consecutive games for the second time this season. The Wizards have won five straight at home for the first time in five years, and seven of 10 overall.
It’s a marked improvement from the start of the season, when Washington (11-31) dropped 28 of its first 32 games.
Chicago had won a season-high three in a row for the third time. Nate Robinson scored 19 points for the Bulls, and Joakim Noah narrowly missed a triple-double with nine points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, which equaled his career high.
JAZZ 114, PACERS 110, OT
SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson scored 25 points and Paul Millsap had 21, leading Utah to the overtime win.
Utah scored the first six points in the extra session after blowing a 97-89 lead with 2:44 left in regulation. Gordon Hayward coughed up three turnovers to Indiana’s George Hill in the final minute of the fourth.
Paul George scored 24 points, David West added 23 and Hill had 22 for Indiana (26-18), which lost for the third time in four road games. The Pacers outrebounded the Jazz 41-28.
Hayward scored 15 points, but had the ball stolen from him three times on the final three possessions for Utah in regulation.
BOBCATS 102, TIMBERWOLVES 101
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gerald Henderson made a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left, helping Charlotte snap a 16-game home losing streak.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 25 points and Ramon Sessions finished with 23 as the Bobcats won at home for the first time since Nov. 21. The home slide was two short of the NBA record held by the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks.
Henderson finished with 15 points and Bismack Biyombo had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Charlotte.
Luke Ridnour had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Minnesota, which has lost nine of 10.
NUGGETS 121, KINGS 93
DENVER — Ty Lawson scored 26 points, Andre Iguodala had 20 and Denver used a strong first three quarters to rout Sacramento.
Danilo Gallinari added 14 points for the Nuggets, who led 71-49 at intermission to set a season high for points in a half. They shot 62 percent in the first two quarters and had three players in double figures.
They led by as many as 35 in the second half and were up 101-69 heading into the fourth period when most of the regular players watched the rest of the game.
Aaron Brooks scored 16 points and Tyreke Evans had 15 for the Kings, who have lost four straight. DeMarcus Cousins was held to three points. It’s the first time in his past 17 games he failed to score in double figures.
BUCKS 109, WARRIORS 102
MILWAUKEE — Brandon Jennings scored 20 points to push the Bucks to the win.
Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis also had 20 points against his former team, while Ersan Ilyasova added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Larry Sanders added 16 points and 11 boards.
Stephen Curry led Golden State with 26 points. Klay Thompson added 19, and David Lee had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Golden State has lost four consecutive games in Milwaukee and hasn’t won a game at the Bradley Center since 2008.