San Antonio Spurs 106, New Orleans Hornets 102: Parker & Green

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AT&T CENTER — Tony Parker has long been thought of as a scoring point guard. Coming into the league he was primarily a speedy point guard who relied on layups and not much else. As the Spurs transitioned into a team that depended even more on Parker’s offense, we’ve witness his playmaking abilities blossom.

In San Antonio’s 106-102 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night, Parker’s ability to create shots for his teammates was the best I’ve ever seen it.

With no Tim Duncan in the lineup, the onus was on Parker to control the offense and open up things for his teammates. It’s like that on a normal night as well, but Parker didn’t have the luxury of being able to drop the ball into Duncan in the post for stretches at a time and expect Duncan to create offense.

Even with the extra responsibility, Parker didn’t disappoint. He was at his best when it came to manipulating the defense. He would look off defenders in order to open up passing lanes to teammates. He knew exactly how long to wait for the help defender who rotated over to cover Tiago Splitter on a pick-and-roll to leave before Parker dropped the ball into Splitter.

“I think he was focused from the beginning,” Spurs coach Mike Budenholzer, coaching in place of an under the weather Gregg Popovich, said after the game.

Parker submitted one of his best box scores of the season against the Hornets, tallying 24 points, 13 assists and four rebounds, while committing only one turnover. Splitter was the big beneficiary of Parker’s playmaking, as the big man had a season-high with 25 points on 10-11 shooting, most of that coming in the pick-and-roll and nothing coming from farther than three feet away from the basket.

Considering the Spurs shot just 8-of-25 (32 percent) from the 3-point line, easy baskets around the rim became incredibly important.

“To have 13 assists and only one turnover shows how focused and how good he was,” Coach Bud said.

Like Parker was forced to take the extra burden of the offense with Duncan out, Danny Green saw more of the defensive responsibility on the perimeter fall on his shoulders with Kawhi Leonard inactive. Unlike Parker, however, Green wasn’t successful in his task from start to finish.

Hornets guard Eric Gordon torched the Spurs in the first half with 17 points on 5-of-6 from the field, 3-of-3 from the 3-point line and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Green picked up two fouls less than three minutes into the game and played just 10 minutes in the first two quarters.

After halftime, though, Green recovered and was paramount in holding Gordon scoreless the rest of the game.

“I thought Danny stepped up and really responded to what we needed in the second half,” Coach Bud said.

Indeed, behind Green’s defense and Parker’s offense, the Spurs went on a 18-6 run in the fourth quarter to turn a 83-all tie game into a 12-point advantage for the Spurs.

“Danny did a great job with one-on-one defense on Gordon. We tease him a little bit about last game when we played them because Gordon scored four straight on him, so he took the challenge tonight, got two big steals and got us going in the second half,” Stephen Jackson said.

Despite the late lead the Spurs built, the Hornets stormed back with an 8-0 run to cut San Antonio’s lead to three points with 24 seconds left. Fortunately, Manu Ginobili hit 3-of-4 free throws when New Orleans started to foul to seal the win.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats