Now it’s all Parker’s head and hands

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Relive the series thus far and get ready for Game 4

OKLAHOMA CITY – After two thoroughly dominant wins at home to open the Western Conference finals by the Spurs, Manu Ginobili was asked where a dud like Game 3 comes from.

“It’s the mysteries of the human head,” he replied.

More specifically, la tete of Tony Parker.

“He’s our best player,” said coach Gregg Popovich.

Not Sunday. On a day when the Spurs needed their point guard to have a foot-on-the-neck attitude, Parker was softer than a freshly baked croissant and the Thunder ate him up.

Indeed, Serge Ibaka was back in the OKC lineup and that meant the HOV lane to the basket was no longer open for any Spur who wanted a layup or dunk.

The Thunder power forward gets all the credit in the world for the recuperative powers that put him back into the thick of things just eight days after he’d been declared done for the playoffs. Ibaka gets credit for creating better spacing and more options in the OKC offense and for cutting off passing and driving angles on defense.

What Ibaka can’t get credit for is changing the attitude or the style of play by the Spurs. But he did. Most especially, he altered Parker. After controlling the series in the first two games with his scoring and his passing, Parker did little of either in Game 3, finishing with only nine points on 4-for-13 shooting, four assists and a matching four turnovers.

All Popovich would say to virtually any question asked about Parker was that he had to play better.

“That’s for sure. He’s right,” Parker said. “I have to play better. I know and gotta bounce back.”

Trouble is, it has become a pattern for Parker, these strong starts to a playoff series at home and then going flat on the road.

It’s happened twice before, once against the Lakers in 2004 and also against the very same Thunder in 2012.

The Spurs went from being in complete control to being on the sidelines in a heartbeat. His heartbeat. It was Parker’s more than any other’s pulse that stopped pumping steadily and began to grow erratic and irregular. Those are the only two playoff series in his career that Popovich has ever lost after winning the first two games.

That’s why the coach’s neck still tense up and his eyes became steely even on the day after whenever the topic turned to his point guard. He cracked jokes about Ginobili’s sore left foot. He spoke in glowing admiration for Ibaka’s defensive abilities. He talked about the lasting friendships that endure even through the heat of competition in the coaching fraternity.

He needs to play better.

That’s what Popovich would say over and over about Parker, like a hammer coming down on an anvil.

When a team loaded with veterans gets hammered 52-36 on the boards, gets beaten to most loose balls and doesn’t play solid defense to stop OKC from repeatedly getting to the foul line, there are other problems.

But as Tim Duncan and Ginobili tiptoe closer to their NBA dotage, more of the responsibility and the burden has fallen on Parker’s shoulders. More of those fiery and angry words from the very same coach who nurtured and goaded him every step of the way to this elite level and now relies on him more than ever.

There are those days when Parker appears unstoppable and the other ones when he doesn’t seem to have the spark to light his own fire. Another one like that on Tuesday night and the Spurs suddenly find themselves dancing not only with a rejuvenated Thunder team now, but also those ghosts of two years ago.

Parker missed his first shot of the game, an open, mid-range jumper, then he made one and then a scoop shot that probably would have fallen in a few days earlier missed when Ibaka came over to cover up.

Did Parker pull back and become more tentative because Ibaka was playing goalie at the rim for OKC? Did he find himself getting into the paint without a clear and decisive idea of what he was going to do next?

It’s the mysteries of the human head.

And nobody has their tete on the line more in Game 4 than Tony Parker.

20 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Spurs did not play great in game 3. It is obviously a giveaway to bring home the western championship win home in game 5. Just like they did with Trailblazers. They just measured up Ibaka’s game and gave him a dramatic comeback. Adjustments will be seen tonight.

    • okckd35 says:

      Thats really what you think? What team gives away a playoff game? Do all spurs fans live in denial? OKC has won 11 of the last 15 games against the spurs. Probably would be 13 of 15 if ibaka didnt get hurt

      • Jeff says:

        I doubt it was a giveaway, but I didn’t see a lot of ball movement from the Spurs…gotta play the way they play the best, using the pill to stretch the oppositions defence while they find a team member with a better look.

  2. Mr4thQuarter says:

    Pop gave them a counseling they good. No reruns tonight =)

  3. jlove says:

    Look at all the details of the game, parker didn’t play well Tim played ok, spurs had some stupid turnovers, OKC outrebounded spurs and OKC only won bye 9. in my opinion the spurs don’t have to play a complete game to beat OKC they just need to stop beating themselves. OKC knows that they can’t beat spurs in a 7 game series but they will fight. I feel the spurs will win tonight. Hope is a good game.

    • kd's abeast says:

      First okc beat them by 20 bcuz thats wen we took our starters out watch the game, the spurs came back in garbage time against our reserves, 2nd kd and russ didn’t put up nearly a good game as we r use to, 3rd okc had more than average turnovers and last we have half a serge since he had a slight limp, yet okc still won so if you didn’t watch the game u cudnt have saw these things but dont act like okc was playing its very best and won by 20, we wud have had a complete blowout worse than a 20 point deficit if okc didn’t have these problems either.

  4. Gilbs says:

    Spurs will win game 4 for me… It’s time that Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs must bounce back and play hard… Go Spurs!!!

  5. insane696 says:

    game 4 will be epic,okc will try to equalize spurs will push for 3-1,lets go spurs!!!

  6. Ryan says:

    Spurs versus Heat in the Finals. But this time, Spurs will be the champs..!! Most probably the last hooray for Timmy…

  7. Heat2014 says:

    Ether. Way the heat will win ok’d in 5 sas in 6

  8. Vincent says:

    This wasn’t too bad. OKC got to Tony and u have to give them credit for the tactic. Pop will adjust to it accordingly.

  9. leborn jaems says:

    either of these two is fine.. my team can beat any of them in less than 7 games..

  10. J B 507 says:

    was this guy (writer) expecting a sweep?? He writes as if the spurs are the ones trailing in the series. He should be worrying about the thunder having any energy left after going all out against the spurs who were resting their players, and if ibaka’s calf is healing properly?
    GO SPURS

    • kd's abeast says:

      Hes writing realistically based on facts these r the facts for the thunder spurs matchup: spurs record in okc house 0-8, okc with ibaka 5-0, okc without ibaka 0-2, okc v spurs overall 11 out of 13, spurs won 2. The facts are spurs rs have never won against a healthy okc squad or half healthy. And they have never won in okc house but okc has won on spurs floor so odds r stacked against them if thunder fan pull out a win in sas we most likely will take the series.

    • okckd35 says:

      Going all out against the spurs who were resting their players? Where did u get this? Both teams pulled starters when OKC was up by 20.

  11. okc2014 says:

    I hate that I will miss some of this game!! Go Thunder!!!

  12. Hacker says:

    Parker is fantastic! Tell you the truth, I can’t see that much fault in his play – OKC was phenomenal. This series is probably the last great series of the year – the East is almost unwatchable.

  13. Mr. Unbelievable says:

    People really underestimate how much work Parker has consistently put in for the Spurs. Underrated PG in my opinion.

  14. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs will play tough on both sides of the ball in game 4 ! Should be a tight game, great one to watch !

    • Scott C says:

      two great teams, two great organizations, and two great fan bases!!!……… Let’s Get It On!!!…. Go Spurs Go!!!