Welcome Back Parker
Dallas 106, San Antonio 112
And like that, the team is whole again.
With the return of Parker to the line-up, the Spurs played with their full complement of players for the first time in almost 2 months. Parker, while the least injured, was the most critical to get healthy. When Pop sat his, he said it was a variety of maladies, and that he needed Parker to get right both physically and mentally. Those quotes were telling: to me, Parker had looked really disengaged mentally for a few months, and it was hurting the team. More than any of the Big 3, Parker is the most susceptible to mentally checking out and just being “off” his game. While the numbers had remained similar, there was something visibly different about him this season, a mental wear down that was causing the whole team to seem a step behind. Because as Parker goes, so goes the offense.
When Pop finally sat him, I was glad. I thought he needed it. While I admire playing through pain, I thought the team had reached a point where he was doing more harm than good. Without last year’s Parker, this team has no chance in the post-season, so might as well get him right.
It took all of 8 minutes to show the effects of the rest. Parker looked sharper and more engaged than he has all season. In about 8 minuets, he scored 10 of our 17 points, probably had another assist or two in there, and just put constant pressure on the Mavs defense. When he went to the bench, the Spurs had a 9-point lead. It was good to see that Tony again.
Of course, the return of Tony (and everybody else, obviously) puts everything into its right place. The starting line-up is back together again. The bench is the bench again. The rotations are in sync and make sense. There are options at every position for every match-up. The Spurs look like the Spurs.
And of course, the Mavs are always the Mavs. One thing this particular Mavs team does extremely well is hit long 2-point jump shots. I suppose a way to make up for market inefficiencies is to lean in to it, to get so good at what other defenses want to give you that perhaps it will become a strength. Dirk, of course, has always been a freak, and anywhere he shoots it’s a good shot. But Ellis, Calderon, even Vince Carter all shoot well from that soft underbelly of most defenses: the long 2-pointer. So while the Spurs always felt in complete control of the game, the largest lead was never more than 11, and the Mavs just kind of always stuck around, even though the Spurs played pretty good D, dominated with their offense, and did what they wanted to do.
Oh, and the turnovers. The Spurs have made a bad habit of turning the ball over lately. Some of that is just the cost of doing business for this team. When you have a team with such wonderful chemistry and ball movement and unselfishness, not to mention Manu and Boris and Marco and Patty and Duncan and Tiago (players that love creative passing), there are going to be turnovers. If a few extra turnovers is the price you pay for wide open corner 3s and uncontested layups at the rim, so be it. Also, the team has been so out of whack with injuries, they really are getting reacquainted with each other. Give it time. It certainly needs to be cleaned up, but I’d assume the coaches and players also know this.
It was a successful 3-Game home stand, and a successful injury-riddled run. Through it all, the team is still 2nd in the West, just a game and a half back of OKC, and in great health and position to make a strong run into the playoffs.
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