Parker starts strong after hamstring worries, then fades

The Canadian Press
6/14/2013 1:26:38 AM
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SAN ANTONIO -- Tony Parker made good on his pledge before Game 4 of the NBA Finals: He was ready to go.

He just didn't have it in him to finish.

What began as a spectacular, told-you-so performance from the All-Star point guard ended with a scoreless second half and second-guessing about his strained right hamstring, which Parker said gradually sapped his strength as the San Antonio Spurs lost to the resurgent Miami Heat 109-93 on Thursday night.

Parker, who repeatedly declared "I'll be ready to go" to questions about his health before Game 4, said afterward he "definitely got fatigued" in the second half.

That's when Parker took only four shots and made none. It was an abrupt reversal after a brilliant first half, when Parker looked like the NBA's best point guard -- just as he did at the start of the series.

By the end, he settled for 15 points and nine assists in Game 4.

"It was kind of weak. I didn't know what to expect," Parker said. "So the first three, four minutes I was kind of testing it, and the first half it felt OK. And the second half I think I got fatigued a little bit."

Then he threw in a silver lining.

"Overall I'm just happy I didn't make it worse," he said.

The series is tied 2-all heading into the final home game for San Antonio on Sunday night. Parker said he'll be OK to play after packing the next two off days with treatment, but the Spurs might need him to be spectacular again to win a fifth championship.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said health wasn't Parker's problem.

"Miami did a great job on him," Popovich said. "They doubled. They got it out of his hands and other people had to play."

Parker shot 7 of 16 and reached the foul line just three times. It was a sudden disappearing act after scoring or assisting on 12 of San Antonio's first 16 field goals.

Despite the lingering problems from his hamstring, Parker didn't make it obvious. He played 31 minutes and well into the fourth quarter before the Spurs emptied their bench as the Heat pulled away.

Parker was hurt in the second half of Game 3, and an MRI taken Wednesday revealed a Grade 1 strain. That's the mildest level, but Parker wouldn't commit to playing Thursday night until the morning shootaround.

The way he started the game, it appeared all the concern about his hamstring was silly. He shot 58 per cent in the first half, and had already outscored his listless performances in Games 2 and 3.

Miami stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had rebounded, too, making this series a thrilling matchup of dueling superstars again. But while James and Wade kept bulldozing the Spurs in the second half, Parker couldn't keep up.

"They are doing the same thing on me since the beginning," Parker said of the Heat. "Very aggressive on pick-and-rolls, stuff like that. I missed easy shots, and hopefully I'll get more healthy and better by Sunday."

Parker didn't have his supporting cast in the backcourt to bail him out this time, either.

Danny Green and Gary Neal, who lit up the Heat in a Game 3 blowout, combined for 23 points -- less than half their output the last time out.

One big reason: Miami didn't let the Spurs have their way from 3-point range again. Whereas Neal and Green combined to make 13 of San Antonio's Finals-record 16 shots from behind the arc in Game 3, the Spurs totalled only 16 tries from long range as an encore.

That was half the number of 3s that San Antonio launched Tuesday night. Green said he expected the Heat to chase them more aggressively off the 3-point line this time.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan also gave the Heat credit -- for doing as much to limit Parker as his injury.

"He's played with injuries all year long, minor injuries all year long, and I had no doubt that he would be there and be ready to play," Duncan said. "And he played well. As I said, give credit to Miami in the second half."

Tony Parker (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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