SAN ANTONIO – Tony Parker described his ailing right hamstring Saturday as something of a ticking time bomb.
“My hamstring can tear any time now,” the San Antonio Spurs’ All-Star point guard said. “So if it was the regular season I would be resting like 10 days. But now it’s The NBA Finals. If it gets a tear, it’s life.”
A tear at any point in the remainder of this back-and-forth series would almost assuredly end the Spurs’ championship hopes. As it is they believe they must win Sunday night’s Game 5 and take a 3-2 lead back to South Florida if they’re going to have a shot to unseat the defending champion Miami Heat.
So far neither team has strung together consecutive victories. The club coming off a loss has been able to take charge in the second half leading to three straight games of lopsided final scores.The Spurs hope that an improving Parker and playing the last game of the season on their home floor will be enough to continue that trend and put them back in control of the series.
“That’s what it’s all about right now, is that focus for a longer period of time, taking care of the ball, understanding what you want to do and less defensive mistakes,” Tim Duncan said. “And for whatever reason, it seems like the team that’s coming off a loss has done a better job of sustaining that for a longer period of time. I hope that’s the case for us tomorrow, but we have to find a way to alleviate that, whether it’s a win or a loss.”
It starts with Parker’s ability to go to the distance. He was superb in the first half of Game 4, scoring 15 points on an array of spectacular penetrations and spin moves that seemed to suggest the hamstring issue was behind him. Only the Grade I strain caught up to him in the second half in the form of fatigue. Parker said he began to feel “weak” in the second half. He didn’t possess his usual explosiveness, making him more vulnerable to Miami’s trapping defense that helped to force 19 Spurs turnovers.
San Antonio’s offense faded with Parker, who went scoreless in the second half. Over the two off days, Parker has been undergoing constant treatment. He said there’s no way to tell how the hamstring will respond throughout Game 5.
“I don’t know, we’ll see tomorrow, I guess,” Parker said. “It feels good. It feels good. I feel like I’m getting stronger with it. My goal is to be close to 100 percent by tomorrow. I feel confident, being disciplined with all the treatments, with the ice right now.
“Hopefully I’ll be good by tomorrow.”
The Spurs are counting on it.