Dec 23, 12:43 AM EST

Parker returns, leads Spurs past Clippers, 125-118


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SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- San Antonio point guard Tony Parker watched helplessly as the Spurs were drained emotionally and physically by four straight defeats, including a pair of crushing losses at home in triple overtime.

He saw the frustration and despair weigh on his teammates, especially longtime running mate Manu Ginobili, who was forced to play extended minutes as the team's lone playmaker.

Parker wanted to give San Antonio a lift, and he did so in a big way.

He scored 26 points in his return from a five-game absence, igniting the Spurs to a season-high 37 assists and a 125-118 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.

"It was a great relief for everybody (to have Parker back), and he made us play better and with more confidence," said Ginobili, who had a season-high 10 assists.

San Antonio shot a season-high 64 percent from the field.

Tim Duncan had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Boris Diaw scored 23 points and Ginobili added 19 for the Spurs (18-11), who had lost three straight home games in overtime.

Those losses took a toll on the Spurs, even Parker, who sat out with a strained left hamstring.

"It was hard to watch," Parker said. "A tough time, so I was just trying to bring energy and be aggressive."

Parker showed no lingering effects from the injury that kept him out of eight of the past nine games. He played 34 minutes, shooting 11 for 18 from the field and collecting four assists.

"He says he feels great," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "I'm scared to death about it, but I'm just going to trust him. He has been around for a long time, and he doesn't want to reinjure himself. Hopefully, he's OK."

Parker collected a steal on San Antonio's opening defensive possession and made his initial jumper and first two free throws.

Parker's ability to penetrate reinvigorated the Spurs' ball movement, providing the "good-to-great" mantra that Popovich preached last season. San Antonio had a season-high 72 points in the first half, shooting 75 percent while handing out 20 assists on its 30 baskets.

"They shot the lights out (of) the ball tonight," said Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. "At the same time, you've got to try to impose your will on defense. (At) some point, you can't hope they miss, you have to make them miss."

Paul had 25 points and nine assists, Blake Griffin added 22 points and J.J. Redick had 21 for the Clippers (19-9), who have lost four straight to San Antonio.

Jamal Crawford's jumper tied it at 102 with 8:17 remaining, the first tie since the opening minute of the second quarter. The Spurs hit three 3-pointers after that, including Ginobili flipping a left-handed pass behind his head to Danny Green for a 115-106 lead with 4 minutes remaining.

It was part of a rejuvenated performance by Ginobili, who shot an airball on a 3-pointer at the close of the third overtime against Memphis and had several untimely turnovers late while playing all three overtimes against the Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers.

"That's why I felt pain for him," Parker said. "I know usually we take turns on who's going to play the pick-and-rolls and who's going to create. All three overtimes it was him the whole time and so he was super tired. I felt bad for him."

TIP-INS

Clippers: Paul had nine assists, giving him 6,387 to surpass former Lakers guard Norm Nixon (6,381) for 24th in league history. . Redick, fourth in the NBA at 2.9 points in the opening 3 minutes of the game, had seven to open Monday's game. . Clippers F Spencer Hawes (left knee bruise) missed his sixth straight game.

Spurs: Duncan tied Lakers forward A.C. Green for 19th in career games played at 1,278. . San Antonio used its 17th different starting lineup this season. . The Spurs previous season high in assists was 31 in their triple-overtime loss to Memphis on Wednesday.

GREAT EFFORT

Duncan had 21 points to surpass Indiana Pacers standout Reggie Miller for 17th on the career scoring list. Duncan, who has 25,288 points, also collected his 812th career double-double.

UP NEXT

Clippers: Visit Atlanta on Tuesday.

Spurs: Host Oklahoma City on Thursday.

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