With 6:37 left in the fourth quarter between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen made a lengthy jump shot to cut the Spurs’ once 14-point lead down to just one point, 79-78.
As he had done in three previous games when he was needed most, Spurs guard Tony Parker would answer the call of the ‘closer’ Friday as he once again made the fourth quarter “Tony” time.
Just 23 seconds after Allen made his jumper, Parker would make his own four-foot jumper. On the next offensive possession, Parker was fouled and connected on his two free throws. He would continue to help the Spurs create separation from the Grizzlies as he scored 11 points in a span of about five minutes of the fourth quarter to help the Spurs defeat the Grizzlies by 16 points, 102-86.
Taking over in the final period isn’t anything new for Parker early in this season. Going back to a November 6 game against the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs found themselves tied at 73 points apiece heading into the fourth quarter. Parker would take over in the fourth scoring 15 of his team’s 26 points as the Spurs narrowly held on for a 99-96 win that evening.
Two days later, when the Golden State Warriors visited San Antonio on November 8, the Spurs were heading into the fourth with a 64-55 lead. The Warriors’ defense would lock down San Antonio as they held the Spurs to just 12 points in the fourth quarter, but Parker was the only Spur who mainly scored as he was responsible for 7 of those 12 points. The Spurs held on for a close 76-74 victory.
A week ago in Utah, the Spurs found themselves trailing the Jazz throughout the night and down 67-60 heading into the fourth quarter. Parker would ignite an offensive scoring spree as he went for 14 of the teams 31 points in the fourth quarter to guide San Antonio to a 91-82 win in Salt Lake City.
Because the Spurs have had some comfortable wins through their 11-1 start, Parker has only actually played in nine of the 12 fourth quarters. In the fourth quarter he is averaging 7 points in 8.1 minutes, while his shooting gets better as he’s shooting 64% from the field and 75% from 3-point range while he’s throwing 1.3 assists. The only area he hasn’t been flawless in is at the free throw line, where he is shooting 56% from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Through 12 games, Parker is averaging 18.7 points, 6 assists, and shooting 54% from the field, all while playing only an average of 31.6 minutes per game. His 31.6 minutes per game to start the season is the third lowest of his career as his least amount was 29.4 minutes in his rookie year and 30.9 minutes in the 2009-10 season.
Considering he went all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals and played with the French National team to the last day of Eurobasket, playing his third lowest amount of minutes could work wonders for him if the trend continues throughout the season, meaning there could be a chance he’ll be fresh for the post-season.
Though it’s a small size when you really think about it (4 games where Parker has taken over the fourth quarter), one thing is clear as we near a month into the season – so far – the fourth quarter is “Tony” time.