Late in the fourth quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ 100-88 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, TNT’s sideline reporter Craig Sager had reported that Spurs guard Tony Parker, who had scored just two points in 25 minutes, had went to the locker room where he was having ankle, neck, and back troubles.
After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he feared Parker might have added a new injury to the one’s he’s already been suffering, an issue with his shins.
"My feeling is tendinitis,” said Popovich after the game, “something in his shins or whatever."
"I saw him come across half court actually limping at one time and said Tony, you’ve got to stop,” continued Popovich, “so we’ll figure out what it is."
In the locker room after however, NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan reported Parker wouldn’t discuss his new injury.
"I'm not going to talk about all my stuff,” said Parker. “I've got a lot of stuff going on. I just have to get healthy."
According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News, Parker said, “we’ll see” if he will play Saturday versus the Atlanta Hawks in San Antonio.
In written words, Popovich’s thoughts are striking. Here’s what Caplan reported he said about losing Parker, after already losing Manu Ginobili for three weeks.
"So to have those two guys in that situation now is really disappointing. But, you move on. Life is tough."
Minus the fact that the Spurs might have lost another member of their “Big 3” to injuries with just six games remaining before the NBA playoffs begin, there was a game at hand that featured the lone healthy member, Tim Duncan, the “beautiful star” according to Shaquielle O’Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal off of the bench, and the rookie Nando De Colo.
On the Thunder side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook didn’t allow a depleted Spurs team to defeat them at home, like the Spurs let the Miami Heat do to them on Sunday.
The game was built on runs in a pattern. The Thunder would dominate the beginning of the quarters, but then the Spurs would close the gaps to end the quarters. In the second quarter, the Thunder lead got as high as 20 points, but the Spurs made it an eight point game by half.
In the third, the Thunder once again stretched their lead to 19 points, but the Spurs would find a way to get within three points. However, three was the closest they got all game.
Duncan put pressure on the frontline of the Thunder with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. Leonard was spectacular in having to run the offense during stretches when Parker or Duncan weren’t in as he finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. Durant might be realizing that Leonard is no longer just a corner 3-point shooter or defender. Should the Spurs and Thunder meet in the future, Durant now knows Leonard is going to make him play defense as Leonard is getting more comfortable and aggressive in the offense whether in the half court or in transition.
When the Spurs were down 20 points, Neal was a big spark in their comeback as he finished the night with 14 points, where he found a hot shooting stroke in the second quarter. He would however go quiet in the second half, only scoring two points.
If there was one player who earned the most experience and possibly confidence from this game, it was De Colo. De Colo was aggressive offensively and did have his trouble defensively defending Westbrook, but overall had a solid game off the bench for the Spurs. He finished with eight points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Coach Popovich went to De Colo in the fourth quarter when Parker couldn’t play and De Colo delivered at times when the game was close with layups, finding easy passes for teammates, and knocking down 3-pointers.
Westbrook, who pretty much didn’t have to play a lot of defense with Parker hobbled, finished the game with 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals; but he shot just 9-of-21 with basically De Colo defending him throughout the game. Durant finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks, and six turnovers as he too had to take 20 shots to score those points, which would credit Leonard’s defense.
With the loss, the Spurs move to 56-20 on the season, as they’re now tied with the Thunder (55-20) in the loss column. The Spurs will begin their final six games of the regular season Saturday when they host the Hawks.
Will Popovich just rest Parker until the playoffs? Will the Thunder end up finishing with the number one seed in the playoffs?
Only time will tell. For the Spurs at this moment, they need to as much time as possible to heal themselves before they take their steps on the postseason floor whether as the one or two seed in the West.