Season 50, Game 69
San Antonio 118, Sacramento 102
53-16, 2nd in the West
At least this time the Spurs didn’t wait until they were down 28 to start their comeback.
Continuing the trend of sluggish starts, the Spurs let the Kings jump out to a quick double digit lead. Once again, they were sluggish and out of sorts on offense, and nothing was coming easy. About midway through the first quarter, the Spurs started pressing full court, forced 4 straight TOs, and got themselves back in the game.
While I like a lot of the young players on this Kings team post-Cousins trade, they’re just not a very competitive team. If the game is competitive, it’s the Spurs fault. Thankfully, it was only competitive for about 20 minutes.
The most important takeaway from this game was the play of Parker. After his first shift, he looked great. By extension, so did the rest of the team. You can actually trace the moment when the Spurs seized control of this game to the moment that Parker started to play well in the 2nd quarter. He made some vintage drives to the rim. His stroke looked pure on the midranger.
In the third quarter, he went into set-up mode, and the offense hummed inversely proportional to how it clunked in the first quarter. The end result: a season-tying 41-point third quarter.
All of this just helps to illustrate the Parker problem: to be great, the team needs him to be good. (Not even great, just good.) And when he is good, the team is great. But getting a fresh, consistent Parker is near-impossible. Game to game, you have no idea which Tony is coming to play. But the only path to true greatness is with a good Tony.
So how can the team be a championship contender when the only truly reliable variable is that Tony will be not be reliable?
And moving past this season, what do the Spurs do about Tony? Easing him to a lesser and lesser role will not be as easy as it was with Manu and Tim, and the team might have to choose between keeping Tony and keeping a younger, more valuable piece. Can they make the cutthroat business decision they never had to make with their other legacy players?
Thinking too much about it makes my head and my heart hurt. But make no mistake: a Tony Parker reckoning is coming, sooner rather than later.
Until then, there’s still a season to play out. The Spurs travel to Minnesota for a one-off roadie on Tuesday night.
Go Spurs Go.