Parker carries Spurs back to finals

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The 37-year-old Duncan finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kawhi Leonard added 11 points.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich savored being back in the Finals once again.

“You don’t expect that to happen maybe this late in the game with the same group,” Popovich said. “It’s tough to do, to maintain something that long. But it just shows the character of those three guys and their ability to play with whoever else is brought in around them. They deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had talked about how his Grizzlies needed to dig deep for something they didn’t know they had to take the first step back into this series. They just couldn’t outshoot the Spurs and got beaten once again at their own inside game.

“We just never could gain control of the paint,” Hollins said. “They controlled the paint.”

That the Spurs did as they shot 51.3 percent (39 of 76) from the floor and outscored Memphis 52-32 in the paint, even though the Grizzlies had a 41-34 edge on the boards. Memphis led only briefly and the last at 6-4 as the Spurs took control early.

Memphis stayed close only by getting to the free throw line, making more shots there (17 of 24) than San Antonio took (12 of 13).

The Grizzlies also got a career-high 22 points from reserve Quincy Pondexter, 18 of those in the second half. Pondexter was the only player from Memphis to shoot over .500. Zach Randolph finished with 13 points, continuing his struggles at the line, where he was 5 of 8. Marc Gasol had 14 points for Memphis.

“It’s difficult.” Randolph said. “I don’t know what to say. They beat us. It’s disappointing. We lost the series, got swept or whatever.”

Duncan had taken care of the Grizzlies scoring the big points in overtime in each of the last two games.

Parker took over this time as he hit 14 of his first 18 shots, and he hit the biggest shot with 9:15 left when he knocked down his lone 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of both Tony Allen and Randolph after Memphis had gotten within 76-73 with fans sensing the most life out of the Grizzlies all night long.

Parker and Duncan took turns making buckets before Parker got hit in the eye by Gasol’s outstretched hand after missing a shot. When Parker returned with 4:43 left, Gasol went over to him and Parker told him he was fine. Parker then hit a jumper with 4:13 remaining for an 89-81 lead.

“He was outstanding the whole series, and he controlled the series with his penetration,” Hollins said of Parker. “He made shots, made plays. One game he has 18 assists, today he has 37 points. He was huge. But their team played well.”

The Grizzlies made one last run and got within three one last time when Gasol scored on a runner in the lane with 48.7 seconds left at 89-86. But Parker finished off the win at the line.

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