There have been many reasons to the success of the San Antonio Spurs over the last 15 years, first and foremost Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. But it’s time for someone else to lead this team to an NBA championship, and Tony Parker came out with a perfect performance to put his team in the NBA finals for the first time in six years.
You couldn’t ask for a better performance from a man who is a three-time NBA champions and a Finals MVP yet still somehow gets a little less respect than he deserves. He came out with guns blazing against a Memphis Grizzlies team that didn’t quite despite the impending sweep, but didn’t really know what to do in order to prevent it.
For the 15th time in his career, Parker scored over 30 points in a postseason game, this time hardly making a mistake all game along except for one or two unnecessary turnovers, scoring 37 points on 15-of-21 from the field, adding six assists as he led the Spurs to a 93-86 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, making it their second sweep of the postseason, and their first visit to the NBA finals since 2007.
Since last year, I promised to Timmy that we will go back, go back to the Finals and get an opportunity to win the whole thing and I’m trying to do my best, try to be aggressive every night. I think everybody on the team, we really want to do it for him. We win the West and now it’s one more step. This is the hardest one.
Duncan had another one of those efficient performances, without standing out too much. The Spurs don’t do things the flashy ways, and overlooked simply because they’re the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard is exciting to watch in transition, but his defense doesn’t generate ratings. That’s life, and the Spurs live with that, but it doesn’t mean they’re not an excellent team. So good they made Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol look quite mediocre once again, keeping the two on 27 points and 36% from the field. That’s been their key all series on defense.
On offense, it’s been the pick & roll. They haven’t been hitting it with amazing precision (0.77 points per possession in game 4) but they go to it on more than a third of their plays, keeping the Grizzlies defense in confusion and a hectic state all game long. They attack early, as Parker had no problem getting by both Tony Allen or Mike Conley with his dribbling abilities or through switches, getting to the basket almost at will. The Spurs outscored the Grizzlies 52-32 in the paint, something that shouldn’t have happened to a team so proud of their interior strength like Memphis.
The Spurs once again shot at very high efficiency (51.3% from the field), hardly needing to take a bad shot. Marc Gasol had his defensive moments, but the players around him weren’t up for the complicated challenge the Spurs were offering, with Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan moving all over the floor, setting screens or finishing plays, combining for 24 points, but more importantly 8 blocks on the night. Their ability to make both Gasol and Randolph uncomfortable all game long was simply too much all through the series.
Consistency isn’t just about winning NBA titles. The old NBA hardly had any teams in it, or enough rounds to make it the challenge it is today for someone like the Spurs to remain at the top of the game for so long, reaching their fifth NBA finals in 15 seasons, hoping that their perfect record under the current regime remains intact, regardless of who they’re facing next.