ATLANTA - Tony Parker already had torched the Atlanta Hawks for 24 points in the first three quarters of the Spurs' 102-92 victory at Philips Arena here Wednesday night, making 12 of 15 shots, and Hawks coach Mike Woodson had seen enough. Between periods, Woodson beseeched his players to cut off Parker's lanes to the basket.
His plea: "Make him shoot jumpers."
"But, Coach," Hawks center Al Horford told Woodson, "he's making all of those, too."
In fact, Parker missed a few shots against the Hawks. It only seemed as if all his shots went in.
The Spurs' All-Star point guard finished with 42 points and added 10 assists in what may have been his most complete game of the season.
It was Parker's second game in 48 hours with at least 30 points and 10 assists. He had 30 and 10 in Tuesday's win over the Golden State Warriors at the AT&T Center.
On Wednesday night, All-Star forward Tim Duncan lost a debate with Gregg Popovich about playing the second game of a back-to-back on achy knees. Manu Ginobili returned to the court - for limited minutes and with a month's worth of rust on his game. So Parker's performance was both remarkable and necessary.
If the Spurs wanted to retain their tenuous hold on second place in the Western Conference standings, their lone totally healthy All-Star needed something akin to his career scoring night of Nov. 5, when he poured in 55 points in a double-overtime win in Minnesota.
In fact, Parker scored 42 in regulation time that night, too.
"Tony Parker was incredible, obviously," Popovich said, "and I thought our team defense was very good. Those two factors gave us a chance to win."
Seizing that opportunity pushed the Spurs (47-24) to a full game lead on Houston for both the Southwest Division and second place in the West, behind the Lakers.
The Spurs' lock-down defense in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter allowed Parker opportunity to give the Spurs the cushion they needed to beat a team that had won eight in a row on its home court, including victories over four of the teams - New Orleans, Portland, Utah and Dallas - pursuing them in the Western race.
Atlanta didn't score in the first 3:53 of the fourth. By the time Joe Johnson made a running 10-footer, with 8:07 left, Parker had nailed two driving layins and a 17-foot jumper. He played every second of the final period, scoring 18. He made 6 of 10 shots and all six of his free throws.
Parker was part of the Spurs' end-game defensive excellence, too. His Atlanta counterpart, Mike Bibby, made only 5 of 13 shots and had only four assists.
"Tony made great choices all night long," Popovich said. "Plus, he's working at the other end trying to keep Michael (Bibby) from knocking down shots. His effort was pretty amazing."
Though Parker had matched his career production for a non-overtime game, he insisted he had done nothing remarkable.
"I don't feel like I'm on fire, or anything," he said. "I've been playing like that since Timmy and Manu was out. My outside shot was feeling pretty good tonight. That opened some stuff up in the second half for me to go to the basket."
Johnson tried to match Parker, drive for drive, in the fourth. Popovich put muscular Ime Udoka on the Hawks' top scorer, and Udoka made things tough for him. Johnson made 5 of 7 shots, but none of them came easily.
"Ime was great," Popovich said. "You're not going to stop Joe. It's like guarding a Kobe Bryant. You're not going to hold him to 10 points, but you've got to make him work all game long, and Ime did that. He worked him very hard, and the team defense behind him was very good.
"Some things you've got to give up, and I thought Ime was very good."