They couldn’t make it easy for Tony Parker on his return game, playing for the first time in three weeks after being taken out by an ankle injury. He still was the best player on the court, the MVP if you will (like San Antonio Spurs fan love to chant about), helping the best team in the Western Conference make it through a tough overtime game against a team that’s moving further away from the NBA playoffs.
Parker wasn’t alone in leading the Spurs in their 104-97 victory over the Utah Jazz in overtime; while the Jazz managed to dictate the right kind of pace for most of the game, getting big nights from Mo Williams and Al Jefferson, the Spurs simply ran away with it in overtime. Tony Parker finished with 22 points, backed up by Kawhi Leonard with 21 on a fantastic shooting day and obviously Tim Duncan, scoring 19 points.
The ankle feels good; it’s more my cardio, my wind. I’m definitely tired. It was a hard game; playoff intensity. Utah is definitely fighting hard to get that eight spot.
Parker scored six points and added two assists in overtime, as the Spurs became the third team this season to win 30 games at home, dropping only 4 of them so far, the last of them two weeks ago in a humiliating 30 points drubbing by the Portland Trail Blazers. Now that Parker is back, which also hurt the games of Nando de Colo and Manu Ginobili (combining for 7 points and 3-11 from the field), losses like that are unlikely to happen.
There were more milestones about the night than just the 30th home win; Gregg Popovich won his 900th game as an NBA head coach, becoming the 12th coach in NBA history to accomplish the feat and joining former Utah coach Jerry Sloan as the only coaches to do so with one team. He now trails Don Nelson (1,335), Lenny Wilkens (1,332), Sloan (1,221), Pat Riley (1,210), Phil Jackson (1,155), George Karl (1,122), Larry Brown (1,098), Rich Adelman (994), Bill Fitch (944), Red Auerbach (938) and Dick Motta (935) in overall wins.
Tim Duncan, with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists in another excellent all-around performance from him since taking a bigger role without Parker on the team, moved past Shaquille O’Neal on the all-time rebounding list, moving up to 13th, with 13,113 career rebounds. He’s averaging 25.5 points, 15 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3 blocks per game in the last four outings.
Kawhi Leonard continued to show just how improved he’s become on the offensive end with 5 points in overtime and generally one of those perfect games on both ends of the floor for him. He’ll never be the guy to lead a team offensively every night, but as a reliable third option on offense, you can’t ask for anything more, not to mention his wing defending which is probably one of the best in the NBA.
We’ll finish with a few more stats that involve Tony Parker and his MVP’ness this season. He’s the only averaging at least 20 points and seven assists while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 80 percent on free throws so far this season. For his career, he is the only one, along with Walt Frazier, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Kevin Johnson averaging at least 15 points, five assists while shooting over 49 percent from the field for his career.