OKLAHOMA CITY – The San Antonio Spurs lost their grip on the West’s top seed Thursday night and potentially much more.
All-Star point guard Tony Parker couldn’t continue in the Spurs’ 100-88 loss to the Thunder due to an unspecified injury to his leg. Limping on his left leg in the locker room, Parker, playing well since recently coming back from a sprained left ankle, wouldn’t expound on this new injury, although a solemn coach Gregg Popovich seemed to be bracing for the worst.
“I’m really concerned about Tony right now after seeing his situation tonight where he just had to stop,” Popovich said. “My feeling is tendinitis, something in his shins or whatever, from the way it looked on the court. But I don’t know.
“I got to see what’s going on. I got to see what the deal is. We thought he had just kind of recovered from his ankle, so this was something new tonight with his leg. I just don’t know what it is right now.”
Popovich yanked the sluggish Parker for good after he noticed him limping through a two-plus-minute stint early in the fourth quarter, leaving crunch-time duty to rookie Nando De Colo. Parker played 26 total minutes, just 10 in the second half, and finished 1-for-6 from the floor for a season-low two points that snapped a 56-game streak of scoring in double figures.
Thursday’s game was just his seventh back from the sprained ankle and he’s been playing through the remnants of a bone bruise in the ankle among other nagging injuries. He scored 25 points with five assists Monday night at Memphis and sat out Wednesday’s game against Orlando, listed on the injury report with a sore left ankle.
“I just have to get healthy,” Parker said. “I’m not going to talk about all my stuff. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I just have to get healthy. OKC, give them a lot of credit. They just beat us tonight.”
Pressed if he’s experienced similar pain before, Parker reiterated: “I just have to get healthy. I’m not going to give you any other answers than that.”
Asked if he believes if he will be able to return quickly or if rest at this late stage of the season is needed, Parker answered: “We’ll see. I’ll talk with the medical staff, talk with Pop and try to make the best decision to make sure I’m 100 percent and healthy for the playoffs. That’s the most important thing.”
The Spurs are already without irreplaceable sixth man Manu Ginobili (hamstring) possibly into the first round of the playoffs, and forward Stephen Jackson on Thursday had an MRI on his sprained right ankle. The results were not known and there is no timetable for his return.
As short-handed as the Spurs were Thursday, and playing inside the Thunder’s raucous den and against a youthful team that had been resting since last playing on Saturday, a game with wild swings was in doubt until the final two minutes. San Antonio, led by Kawhi Leonard‘s 24-point, 14-rebound effort in 42 minutes, and Tim Duncan‘s 24 points and 11 rebounds, continually rallied from poor starts to open the first, third and fourth quarters.
Playing a fourth game in five nights, the Spurs trailed by as many as 2o in the first half, but went into halftime trailing 52-44. The Thunder bolted to a 19-point lead in the third, yet saw that trimmed to 77-71 to start the fourth quarter. And finally, a quick 14-point bulge, with Derek Fisher dropping his fifth 3-pointer of the game early in the fourth, was cut to seven in two minutes before the Thunder, which limited the Spurs to 39.8 percent shooting, iced it late.
Fisher, mired in a miserable shooting slump, came off the bench and hit his first four 3-point attempts, including two in a row late in the first quarter to extend a 21-18 lead to 29-18. He finished with 17 points in a balanced Thunder attack in which Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 27 points, plus seven assists and seven rebounds. Kevin Durant had 25 and Serge Ibaka (11 rebounds, three blocks) and Thabo Sefolosha each had 11.
“That hurt us, big time,” Duncan said of Fisher’s hot hand. “You can game plan for everything, but you get somebody to get off like that, it’s something you don’t count on. All in all, we did a good job on all the rest of the guys. He just got away from us.”
The Thunder win leaves them one-half game behind the Spurs in the standings, but tied in the loss column. The teams split the four-game season series and OKC has the inside track for the tiebreaker with a two-game lead over San Antonio in terms of record against the West.
“They’ve had it a little easier than us health-wise and we’re still right in the mix,” Duncan said. “However many games left, we’ll see how it plays out. Hopefully we can see them again in the playoffs.”
The Thunder have a tough road ahead. They left town after the game for Friday’s matchup at Indiana and then they’ll return home for a Sunday matinee against the sizzling New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony, who has gained ground on Durant in the chase for the scoring title.
The Spurs now limp back to San Antonio for their final six games and unsure of who they’ll have in uniform for Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
“Everybody has problems during the year, you just hate to have them here at the end,” Popovich said. “So, to have those two guys [Parker and Ginobili] in that situation now is really disappointing. But, you move on. Life is tough.”