Tony Parker as Steve Nash
Tony Parker assisted four of the first five San Antonio baskets, leading the Spurs to a commanding early lead against the Clippers. The Clippers would eventually battle back with a run of sorts, but last night’s game was over soon after it began.
Tony Parker is credited with with 28 assists over the last three games, games in which he’s played a total of 99 minutes. The Spurs’ already efficient offense has looked explosive, and Parker may have refined his role on this remade San Antonio team. When the Spurs get Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili involved early, the offense starts to hum. And this despite a horrendous stretch of high turnover contests. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s right there for us to see.
Tony Parker’s point play is atÂ the center of the latest version of the 2009-10 Spurs–the team is a brief 21 games in, but it feels like the Spurs have already shed their skin two or three times this season. Version 3.0 defeated the Clippers last night.
To suggest that Tony Parker is playing like Steve Nash is a moment of hyperbole. You know that. But the last three contests have seen Parker assume a distinct pass first mentality in the first quarter. Of his seven assists, five came in the first quarter. His first shot attempt of the game came with 4:20 remaining in the first, and it was his only attempt of the quarter. Richard Jefferson was 3 for 5 on the quarter; Manu Ginobili was 2 for 3.
The results of the Charlotte game (two victories back) are less obvious, but consider that Parker only attempted seven shots against the Bobcats. And that Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili finished with 17 and 22 points, respectively.
Against the Kings, if you recall, Parker found Richard Jefferson for a scripted–gasp–alley oop on the game’s fifth possession. Parker finished with 11 assists, 7 of which came in the initial 12 minutes.
I call your attention to the trend, which, I admit, may turn out to be nothing. But it’s a potential watershed moment for the Spurs’ title contention, and the development of Tony Parker’s game. In some ways it’s a chicken and the egg conversation. Is Tony Parker collecting early assists because the Spurs are starting to play well? Or, perhaps, are the Spurs playing well because Tony Parker is making a concerted effort to find his teammates?
One wonders if the recent rash of turnovers owes anything to the the Spurs’ conscientious attempt to invoke that time-honored Judeo-Christian ethic of the pass shall be first. That, and a measure of makes-you-grimace sloppiness. At any rate, the Spurs have tallied an awful 54 turnovers in the previous three games. But I see more than a sliver of silver in those dark clouds.