Tony Parker was causing the Pelicans so much trouble with his dazzling dribble drives that New Orleans' best defender, agile big man Anthony Davis, stepped out to challenge the shifty San Antonio point guard on the perimeter during the critical final five minutes.
With a shoulder fake to his right and a cross-over dribble to the left, Parker wrong-footed Davis and exploded down an open lane for yet another easy layup.
Parker scored 21 of his 32 points in the second half and also doled out nine assists, and the Spurs overcame a 14-point deficit en route to a 102-95 victory over the Pelicans on Monday night.
"Tony pretty much carved them up," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, referring to Parker as "a monster" down the stretch.
Tim Duncan scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, and Marco Belinelli added 13 against his former club.
Davis had 17 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, Anthony Morrow added 20 points and Eric Gordon scored 19 for the Pelicans, who appeared in line for their fifth win in six games when they led by 14 near the end of the third quarter.
The Spurs had other plans, outscoring New Orleans 38-19 in the final period.
"Finally, in the fourth quarter, we were more physical and played better defense," Parker said. "And we just know how to win. ... In the fourth quarter, when it's tight, we know how to execute and we know what we want to do on offense."
Duncan had a difficult first half, hitting only two of his first eight shots and even missing a dunk, but looked like his usual self when it mattered.
He opened the third quarter by making 5 of 7 shots. Parker added 10 points in the quarter, and his scoop shot had San Antonio as close as 65-62 with 3:13 left in the period. But New Orleans regained its rhythm once more while the Spurs briefly came unhinged.
Shortly after Morrow's 3 made it 70-62, Parker and Duncan were called for technical fouls on the same offensive possession. Morrow made both free throws, then got fouled and made two more free throws, and New Orleans went back up by 14 on Greg Stiemsma's tip-in.
San Antonio simply wouldn't go away, suffocating New Orleans shooters and forcing four turnovers in the first six minutes of the final quarter.
"We had some costly turnovers," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "A number of our guys, you look at our numbers, we just did not shoot the ball well across the board, in the fourth quarter for sure."
The Pelicans has 16 turnovers in all, leading to 18 San Antonio points, and New Orleans made only 8 of 21 shots (38 percent) in the final period.
That, combined with Parker's clutch play, was too much to overcome.
"Tony Parker got it going and we didn't corral him enough when he got in the paint," Morrow said. "He just made more plays down the stretch."
The Spurs, meanwhile, took over the game with a 12-0 run that began when Patty Mills hit a 19-foot jumper and followed that with a 3. Then Danny Green, back from a broken left hand to play for the first time in 10 games, made his first shot — a 3-pointer — on his seventh attempt with 7:24 to go to pull the Spurs to 82-78. Parker completed the comeback a few plays later with his driving floater that tied it at 82 with 5:48 to go.
"We played badly for 24-plus minutes — made a lot of mistakes and finally put a stretch together," Duncan said. "We finally made some shots, honestly. We made, I think, two 3's in a row during the run that were big for us. We just needed something. We needed some kind of spark, some kind of stop-and-score. ... We had a crew in there that did it well."
The Pelicans shot nearly 57 percent in the first half (21 of 37) and led for most of it.
Morrow made five of his first six shots and Gordon had 12 early points, including a 3 that put the Pelicans up 54-42 at halftime.
NOTES: Green finished with 7 points in 30 minutes in what was his first action since Jan. 12. ... Pelicans G Tyreke Evans played only five minutes, leaving the game for good shortly after hurting his right ribs in a collision with Matt Bonner. ... The halftime performer, tight-rope artist Fletcher Runyan, drew empathetic groans from the crowd when he fell and straddled the rope. After sitting on the rope with a pained expression on his face for several seconds, he gingerly got back up, landed a successful backflip, then smiled and waved as he walked off the court to applause.