Summing it up

The finish line was finally visible in the Spurs’ second game in two nights when the unthinkable happened: Tim Duncan, He Who Has Never Fouled, was disqualified for only the 16th time in 1,215 regular season games. The Spurs were hanging on by their finger nails at that point, leading 89-88 with 6:02 left. But rather than plunge into the abyss, they mustered one last push to win their fifth straight game and build on their lead atop the Western Conference.

Player of the game

While Tony Parker hasn’t been quite as good as he was during the previous two seasons, he can still reach a level few other point guards have access to. The Frenchman made it back there on Monday, scoring a game-high 27 points with seven assists. He led a parade to the foul line with 10 attempts, while sinking 9 of 15 shots from the floor. Combined with just two turnovers, it was Parker at his best: Productive and ruthlessly efficient.

The turning point

It was anyone’s game when Duncan trudged to the bench for good. The Spurs (30-8) snatched the opportunity in front of them, outscoring New Orleans 12-7 down the stretch to become the first team to reach 30 victories this season. Marco Belinelli and Kawhi Leonard drilled 3-pointers after the Pelicans climbed within one, while Parker provided the clincher with a near-impossible runner in traffic that put the Spurs up 99-95 inside the final minute.

News, notes and observations

* Belinelli enjoyed a triumphant return to his old home, scoring 12 points against the team he played for from 2010-12. In addition to his late 3, Belinelli hit a long jumper from the baseline to beat the first-half buzzer. But his most impressive shot came early in the fourth with what ESPN measured to be a 38.7-footer just before the shot-clock expired. (Courtesy of SB Nation.)