Summing it up

While the Spurs (24-7) have stumbled against the league’s elite (Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers), they maintained their place near the top of the standings with a 23-0 record against everyone else. That sparkling mark was in dire jeopardy as the fourth quarter unfolded Sunday at the AT&T Center, where the Kings led by nine with 10:59 left and three with 3:24 remaining.

But as they’ve done so many times in the past, veteran pillars Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan carried the Spurs on their back down the stretch. They combined for 25 of the Spurs’ 31 points in the fourth quarter: 10 apiece for Ginobili and Parker, and five for Duncan. They finished with 67 overall — not enough to match the 80 notched by Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay, but enough to avert what might have been their worst loss of the season.

Player of the game

Ginobili reached the apex of what has been a season-long roll, scoring 28 points for his highest individual total since March 2011. Ten came in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back 3s to knot the score at 102 and jump-start the Spurs’ comeback. Best of all, he had just one turnovers as the team had an NBA season-low four overall, their lowest total since March 2009. He is now shooting 37.7 percent on 3s and 48.2 percent overall — roughly two and six points better than last year — with the team’s best net differential at plus 14.2 points per 100 possessions.

The turning point

While the Kings played one-on-one down the stretch, the Spurs relied on experience born of countless battles over the past decade plus to erase a late 102-99 deficit. The result was seamless teamwork among their Big Three, who alternated huge baskets: first Ginobili’s game-tying 3, then Tim Duncan’s three-point play — off glass, of course — and finally a 3 from Parker that put the Spurs up six. Parker would score the final seven to cap an efficient 22-point outing.

News, notes and observations

* The Spurs’ victory was marred by another poor defensive performance, low-lighted by a 38-point Sacramento onslaught in the third quarter that threatened to bury them. It followed 40-point quarters for Oklahoma City and Houston in the previous four games.

The Spurs did tighten up in the fourth quarter, limiting the Kings to just 17 points on 33.3-percent shooting. Parker credited the improvement to a switch in the Spurs’ pick-and-roll defense, while Duncan was strong late against Cousins after Sacramento’s budding young star had rampaged for 29 points.