Tony Parker, blanketed by LeBron James for the majority of Miami's thrilling 103-100 victory on Tuesday night, missed 12 of his first 16 shots. Even the shots he made were incredibly difficult -- Miami completely snuffed out every San Antonio Spurs' option on one possession in particular, with about 5:50 remaining in the third period, and Parker careened into a lane packed with Heat defenders, stopped on a dime, and still made the shot with a lot of contact from Dwyane Wade. He bailed San Antonio out.
Fast forward to the end of the fourth quarter. And there was Parker, missing shots left and right, with the ball above the arc and the shot clock dwindling. There was James, too, mirroring his every movement, plugging every angle to the rim. So, instead, Parker lofted a high arcing three-pointer that gracefully splashed in the net.
20 seconds later, Parker pick pocketed an errant Mario Chalmers pass, and hit another shot -- a turnaround jumper to put the Spurs up two points with 58 seconds left. Parker wilted afterwards, missing five of his next shots and scoring just three points.
But, even with Parker playing poorly, he's still the catalyst for the majority of the Spurs' offense. In the 83 minutes without Parker this series, San Antonio has scored 104.5 points per 100 possessions, a decent mark but still substantially lower from their efficiency with Parker on the floor (107.2), per NBA.com.
Former Los Angeles Laker and current ESPN analyst Magic Johnson tweeted that the Spurs will only win Game 7 if Parker plays well.
And he's right. Parker's scoring averages and shooting efficiency in three victories (17.8 points and 56.8 percent shooting) are much better than in three losses (15.7 points and 34.3 percent shooting).
Miami's defense has rarely been dialed in, and the Spurs are still scoring at a healthy rate, but they have squelched many of the deadly dribble drives that Parker subsists on. Their aggressive help rotations have cost them more than a few times (*cough* Danny Green *cough*), but that is partially by design. These dribble drives open the floor for the rest of the Spurs players and walling off Parker's pathways to the rim is palatable even if it means making difficult close outs and yielding the occasional juicy wide open 3-point looks.
These are concessions Miami will continue to make, because an aggressive Parker is never a good thing for opposing defenses. Oftentimes, he's the very difference between a win or loss.