Tony Parker is taking over in the fourth quarter

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Parker's masterful play down the stretch of games has been key to the Spurs' hot start.

Our favorite fearless Frenchman led the Spurs to a fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Jazz on Friday. His numbers in the final period reflect another efficiently dominant performance: 4 of 8 from the field, 75% from the line, a couple of assists, no turnovers, and a plus/minus of +16 for the quarter. This seems to happen so frequently now that I wanted to see exactly how well he's played in the final quarter of the first 10 games of the season.

Tony Parker's per-game averages are solid so far:

18.5 points, 6.2 assists, 3 turnovers on 53.8% shooting and a +7 point differential.

And here are his per-36 minute numbers:

21.1 points, 7.1 assists, 3.4 turnovers and a +8 differential.

He's turning the ball over at the highest rate of his career, as the 3.4 per 36 minutes is 0.6 more than his career average of 2.8. He's also struggling from the free-throw line where he's converting only 65% of his attempts, almost a full 10% drop from his career average of 74.7%. If there's anything to be concerned about it is these two areas, as last year he only turned the ball over 2.8 times per-36, and shot a career high 84.5% from the charity stripe. The season isn't three weeks old yet, and I would be surprised if Tony keeps struggling from the line and doesn't start to take care of the ball a little more.

The Spurs have only required the services of Baguette Parker in eight fourth quarters so far, and I would love to know why Gregg Popovich decided to insert him in the game against the 76ers when the Spurs had a comfortable 19-point lead. When the Spurs have needed TP in the fourth he has been able to meet the challenge with excellent results. His per-36 minute numbers in the fourth are:

29.6 points, 5.7 assists, 1.7 turnovers, and a +15.4 point differential while shooting a scorching 63.6% from the field.

For comparison, here are TP's per-36 numbers in quarters one through three:

1st: 22 points, 7.3 assists, 1.2 turnovers, and a +6.5 differential on 53.2% shooting

2nd: 15.1 points, 6,6 assists, 4.3 turnovers, and a -0.5 differential on 50% shooting

3rd: 19.3 points, 8.2 assists, 6.2 turnovers, and a +11.5 differential on 48.7% shooting

And here are his per-game averages by quarter:

1st: 8.8 minutes, 5.4 points, 1.8 assists, 0.3 turnovers, and a +1.6 differential

2nd: 7.6 minutes, 3.2 points, 1.4 assists, 0.9 turnovers, and a -0.1 differential

3rd: 8.8 minutes, 4.7 points, 2 assists, 1.5 turnovers, and a +2.8 differential

4th: 7.9 minutes, 6.5 points, 1.3 assists, 0.4 turnovers, and a +3.4 differential

By the numbers, Tony comes out strong early in the game, where he establishes himself as an offensive threat and looks to get his teammates involved while doing a great job of taking care of the ball. It seems like he loses focus, and perhaps coasts a bit (maybe since it's just the start of the regular season grind) during the middle two quarters, where he has committed 80% of his turnovers.

If the Spurs haven't put the game away after three, Tony brings his A-game when his team needs him the most. His assists go down, but his assist/turnover ratio improves to a stellar 3.3. He increases his entrepreneurial offensive spirit, assuming more risk by increasing his shot attempts to 18.8 per-36 in the fourth compared to 15.8 per-36 during the first three quarters.

A great example of his fourth-quarter prowess came with the surprising Suns trailing the Spurs by only two with 8:33 to play, when Pop brought Tony and Tim back into the game. Tony scored 15 of the last 16 points for the Spurs (on a perfect 7-7 from the field), including the last four of the game to power the Spurs to a three-point victory. It was an incredible performance, and his best of the young season.

Interestingly, his worst shooting performance was in the Spurs' single loss to Portland. He was 1 for 4 from the field in the fourth. You can't draw a meaningful conclusion from just one game, but I felt it was worth noting.

Through the first 10 games -- and it is a small sample size -- Tony has been outstanding in the fourth quarter. The stats back up what many fans have noticed: that Tony Parker is a beast in the deciding quarter of the game. If the Spurs are in a tight one, they know who they can count on to propel them to victory.

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