Season 50, Game 81
San Antonio 98, Portland 99
61-20, 2nd in the West

Last night’s penultimate game of the regular season is recapped by Stephen Hale and Andrew Flores.

Stephen Hale weighs in first:

The fourth quarter doesn’t count. Actually this game really doesn’t count. It’s a glorified tune-up game, specifically played for the purpose of getting reps and finalizing that shortened playoff rotation. The Blazers sat basically everyone but the mascot and the Spurs started their main crew. So the takeaway has to be personal and I think it’s time we call a spade a spade.

Tony Parker is a hot mess.

He looks lost, uninterested and really, really old. Even in the third quarter when he made a few shots against the Trailblazers B Team in the 81st game of the season, I found myself rolling my eyes at his 18 foot jumper over Shabazz Napier. Like, now you want to hit that shot?

Everything you need to know about Tony Parker’s season can be summarized with those missed layups in the second quarter. A sudden burst of speed that surprises even Tony, in which he finds himself with a point blank shot at the basket, only to have a layup that hangs on the rim and trickles out. Parker’s body language sums it up: his shoulders flop down and he drops his head, then literally stops running to dwell on the deeper issues of life, while his teammates try and run back into a 5-on-4 break.

This is 2017 Tony Parker. I find myself longing for Dejounte Murray’s return.

It’s unlikely the Spurs win a championship this year. It’s even more unlikely they win with Patty Mills running the show. And that’s not a knock on Patty. He’s fabulous and really fun to watch, but he’s kind of a one-trick pony.

As surprising as the big men have been all year, the guard play is incredibly suspect. Here’s a list of the other point guards on playoff teams in the Western Conference. Stop me when you feel like Tony Parker can draw even with one of them.

Steph Curry

James Harden

George Hill

Chris Paul

Russell Westbrook

Mike Conley

Damian Lillard

In a guard-rich Western Conference, I wonder who the Spurs will lean on down the stretch. It seems like an impossible feat to get two guards to play well on any given night, let alone three. Fortunately, Danny Green seems to be looking… better… as of late. Also fortunately, when Green hasn’t had his shot, he’s always had his defense.

Parker has always had… France?

Last night Parker should have channeled his inner Manu. Manu got spot minutes and made them count. “The ageless wonder,” said Bill Land at the end of the third quarter. No one says that about Tony. Manu makes the right play and extends Manu-Magic in minimal doses. Tony needs to age with grace or else it will be a swift exit.

Alas, there is one possible saving grace: Kawhi Leonard. Is he really this good? Why are we still impressed by him so much?

My only reservation is, can he drag a team through the playoffs with limited help from a rag-tag big man crew and little to no help from his backcourt? Probably not. But also, maybe so.

I’m kind of done doubting him. He’s amazing and there’s nothing he can’t do on the court. He has zero holes in his game. He’s the complete player: the epitome of work ethic, humility and physical ability. He’s a dream.

It’s going to be a wild ride. There’s no reason the Spurs shouldn’t be in the Western Conference Finals and, at minimum, push it six games. They may very well lose, but they are fully capable of winning the series and returning to the Finals. Hopefully we get a whole lot more of Kawhi: God Mode and a whole lot less of Tony Parker in general.

PS: RIP Meyers Leonard

Now let’s hear from Andrew Flores:

1st Quarter: Although a ‘thank you’ was in order for the second unit – they played such beautiful offense – their defensive continuity was almost non-existent. I was amazed by the 7-of-10 3-pointers made by the home team, but not as impressed by the end of quarter diving reverse layup by Mills. I wonder why Pau turned on that jet-pack after pulling off that sweet pump-fake at the three line with a spinning, breakaway move to the rim for the layup?
I prayed that Ginobili stays with the Spurs for one more season. His passing has been sublime.

2nd Quarter: That jet-pack is starting to get passed around (Pau and Tony combined for four missed lay-ups which overshot the roll) as well as the lethargy – 20 consecutive misses.  Also, what’s up with the mistimed passes? Aren’t we supposed to be over that by now? I appreciate that this is a game for “trying things,” but it doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable to watch some of these plays ending the quarter.

3rd Quarter: There was more of a Spurs pace to this one. Not much offense from the opponent, while our offense had multiple contributors. First Tony get rolling, then Kawhi, then a triple threat of Pau, Manu and Patty from behind the arc. Unfortunately, the Spurs couldn’t stop a guy named Turner (who had 13 in the quarter). However, we had Manu and the quarter ends with a 9 point swing for the Spurs. First lead of the game.

4th Quarter: I imagine that before the start of this quarter, Pop looked over at Stotts and gave him a nod, making a silent gentlemen’s bet along the lines of, “I can win with my bottom bench, even though they only have a 5-point lead”. I’m sure the fans thought that this was going to be a blow out. They didn’t know about Davis Bertans. Now they know. Dunks – yup.  Blocks – yup. As impressive as he played, he paled in comparison to the Dunk of the Year Candidate, Jonathon Simmons. If you haven’t seen that “stomach pumping” jam in the grill of Portland’s “other Leonard,” well, I want it as my next Spurs Cave poster. Unfortunately our young bucks fumbled in the last seconds, a hilarious lesson to be learned.