AT&T Center – Let’s go back to May 2, 2012. The San Antonio Spurs were in the first round of their 2012 playoff run and had just defeated the Utah Jazz to take a 2-0 series lead before sweeping the Jazz a few days later.
That day, Jazz coach Ty Corbin made a comment about San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker that echoed a year later, as the Spurs defeated the Golden State Warriors by 18 points to take a 3-2 series lead Thursday.
“He’s a good player,” said Corbin of Parker a year ago, “and as he goes, his team goes.”
A year later, Danny Green had this to say of Parker, “When he does well, we do well.”
“He’s our generator offensively,” added Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “If he’s not aggressive then everything seems to slow down, so it’s important that he keeps that up.”
Tuesday, Parker led his team to victory with 25 points and 10 assists. The team had its highest assist total of the series against the Warriors, 30, and shot its highest field goal percentage, 52%.
On nights when Parker isn’t playing well, it’s most likely due to some sort of nagging injury. For example in Game 3 against the Warriors, he took a Jarrett Jack knee to his calf and struggled in Game 4. Though Popovich said Parker was feeling better before Game 5, Parker said it took him a half to get back to full speed.
“For whatever reason it was hurting in the first quarter and it was hurting my Achilles,” said Parker of his calf injury. “I kept telling myself it would get warm and in the second half it felt better. I was very slow in the first quarter. I felt like I was 50 years old because everything was hurting. I just kept pushing and my teammates were making shots. The ball movement was great and in the second half I was more aggressive.”
For Parker, he said he’s seen countless defensive game plans to stop him over the years. Whether it is double teams, having two defenders switch on him every other time down the floor, putting lengthier defenders on him, or speedy hounding defenders, Parker has just about seen every type of defensive game plan to stop him. He spoke on how the Warriors are defending him Tuesday.
“The way that Golden State plays defense,” said Parker, “they force me left and they’re not helping even if I’m probing. For whatever reason tonight I got going.”
Warriors guard on Stephen Curry said that when Parker goes to his favored side, that’s when he becomes dangerous. “When Tony had it up top I let him get to his right and that is his strength,” said Curry after Game 5, “A lack of discipline on my end.”
“He played well. He made everybody better. He scored when we needed him to score. He played the way Tony played the whole season,” added Manu Ginobili.
When you look at the Spurs’ wins in the series versus Golden State, it’s obvious that when Parker is in stride, the team is using its system effectively. Here’s some data to prove this statement:
Game 1: Parker 28 points, 8 assists = 26 team assists, Win.
Game 2: Parker 20 points (7-17 FG), 3 assists = 14 team assists, Loss.
Game 3: Parker 32 points, 5 assists = 21 team assists, Win.
Game 4: Parker 17 points (6-17 FG), 3 assists = 17 team assists, Loss.
Game 5: Parker 25 points, 10 assists = 30 team assists, Win by 18.
Early in the series, the Warriors’ defensive scheme of tiring out Parker and making him have to work even harder on defense was working, but the Spurs have adjusted as the series went along. Ginobili spoke of this Tuesday after Game 5.
“Sometimes you’re a little banged up. The opponents know you very well,” said Ginobili of Parker’s situation, “so it’s hard to do every game. He had a great one and we needed it.”
“Obviously, it starts and ends with TP,” said Tim Duncan. “He was the one that made us go all night.”
As the series now shifts to Oakland with the Spurs having a chance at sending the Warriors on vacation, Parker hopes that his team can continue to play the way they did in Game 5.
“Hopefully we can do the same thing in Oakland,” said Parker. “That’s the big key for us. We have to play Spurs basketball and move their defense.”
Playing “Spurs” basketball starts and ends with one player, number 9 in the silver and black.