Parker scores 25, Spurs beat Nuggets for 6th straight
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tony Parker has spent the better part of the past 14 seasons tumbling violently to the court after driving headfirst into the paint against a mass of big men for a contested layup or a timely pass.
Those breakneck drives have not been as frequent this season from the San Antonio point guard, but Parker showed Wednesday night that is by choice.
Parker scored a season-high 25 points and the Spurs never trailed in beating the Denver Nuggets 109-98 for their sixth straight victory.
''He's still got it,'' Denver rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay said. ''He is one of the elite guards. Veteran guard, smart guard. He had one of his best games coming in.''
Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and Patty Mills was 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring a season-high 17. Tim Duncan had 12 points and 11 rebounds and LaMarcus Aldridge added 11 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio, undefeated at home after five games.
The addition of Aldridge and the continuing emergence of Leonard has given the Spurs a more balanced offense and allowed Parker to carry less of the scoring load this season.
''It doesn't matter (who scores) on this team,'' Parker said. ''It depends what's going on, who's hot, who's got the advantage in matchup. ... It doesn't matter, we just want to win a championship.''
In his 15th season, Parker responded to a favorable matchup against Mudiay.
''I thought he was great,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
''He's had some games where he's started slowly, but overall what matters is what he is doing now. He is playing really good defense. He's being really active and aggressive offensively.''
The still-speedy, 6-foot-2 guard took advantage of Mudiay's defensive aggression to keep him off balance with a series of drives for layups and runners. Parker had 15 points in the first half.
''He got it going tonight,'' Leonard said. ''Once he gets it going, he makes the game easier for all of us. All we're doing is catching and shooting. That is the easiest shot of the game.''
San Antonio shot 49 percent from the field and had 33 assists, two shy of its season high.
Parker finished 9 for 14 from the field and sank all but one of his eight free throws.
''I thought Tony Parker was able to live in the paint. He got into the paint at will,'' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ''We did not do a good job of communicating.''
Parker's success in the lane helped San Antonio match a season high with nine 3-pointers.
Mills' effort helped offset the absence of Manu Ginobili, who will miss the next two games with bilateral hip tightness. Ginobili will be re-evaluated before San Antonio's next home game Saturday against Memphis.
Denver rookie Nikola Jokic had 23 points off the bench, going 8 for 13 from the field against Duncan, Aldridge and other Spurs defenders.
''I don't even know if he knows who those guys are, and maybe that's a good thing,'' Malone said. ''He didn't play last night because of matchups with small-ball game, but tonight he was fantastic.''
The 6-foot-10 center from Serbia made his first 3-pointer of the season.
Nuggets: G Will Barton was held to nine points, failing to reach double figures for the first time this season. Barton is averaging 14.1 points per game. ... F Kenneth Faried (lower back pain) and F Darrell Arthur (sinus infection) played after being listed as probable.
Spurs: San Antonio players have missed a combined three games due to injury, with Ginobili sitting out twice. Leonard (upper respiratory infection) and Ginobili (strained abductor) both missed a 92-83 victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 14. ... The Spurs have 10 double-doubles. Aldridge leads the team with five, Duncan has three and Leonard two. ... Parker's previous season high was 17 points Nov. 4 at Washington.
Malone smiled when asked if the Spurs' style of play is what he hopes his young team can eventually emulate. ''I go to sleep dreaming about playing like the Spurs,'' he said.
Jokic drained a 3 in the fourth quarter, which only added to his memorable game against Duncan.
''I enjoyed the game,'' Jokic said. ''I spoke with Tim Duncan in the game. He is a funny guy, good guy, so I was enjoying the game. He asked me, `Do you shoot 3-pointers?' `I said, so-so.'''
Jokic went on to make his second 3-point attempt of the season.
STANDING BY L.A.
Parker took umbrage when asked why Aldridge was having such a slow start to the season.
''Leave LaMarcus alone, he's doing great,'' Parker said. ''He's getting double-doubles. He's doing what Pop wants. He's knocking down shots, playing good defense, getting rebounds. That's what we want. He's not going to average 30 points. Nobody does that here in San Antonio.''
Nuggets: Host Phoenix on Friday.
Spurs: At New Orleans on Friday.