Parker Plays Like a Starter in Loss
But San Antonio has gotten healthy in a hurry, and the only question remaining entering the playoffs was whether Parker could round into postseason form in time to help his team stave off a first-round elimination. Parker's injury, a broken right hand suffered March 6, was the most recent, and he had just six regular-season games to shake off the rust of missing 16 games before the start of the playoffs.
The Spurs got past the two-seeded Mavericks with Parker playing big minutes off the bench, but they may need him to step back into the starting lineup if the team is to put together a winning performance against the Suns. And judging by Parker's performance in Game 1, it appears he is ready to do so.
Parker finished with 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting, and was a huge bright spot in his team's 111-102 defeat on Monday at the hands of the Suns.
San Antonio found themselves trailing by 10 at halftime, thanks to a brilliant first-half performance by Steve Nash. Nash torched the Spurs (and, individually, George Hill) for 17 points and three assists in the game's first 12 minutes. San Antonio needed to change something up if they wanted to get back into the game to start the third, so head coach Gregg Popovich put Parker in with the starting unit at the beginning of the second half.
"I was surprised," Parker said of getting the call to begin the third quarter. "I was getting back in my normal position, and [Popovich] told me I was starting, so ... that's his decision, that's a question you need to ask him."
Popovich was asked about the decision to start Parker over Hill in the third, but to the surprise of no one, the veteran head coach had a nice, tidy excuse prepared for the press in case of such an emergency.
"George had three fouls, and we just didn't want him to start out and get a fourth one quickly," Popovich said.
Whatever the real reason, Parker made the most of his playing time, sparking his team to a quick 17-7 run over the period's first four minutes to pull even with the briefly-stunned Suns. He attacked Nash in a way that Hill had not, and it was somewhat amazing how quickly things turned around once the Spurs had someone playing aggressively from the point guard position.
"That's what I told [Hill] at halftime," Parker said. "You need to get Steve tired, you need to attack him. Because on defense, he's just chilling in the corner, and then he's coming full speed on offense. And Steve Nash full speed ... it's tough."
Hill had a rough night, finishing just 2 of 9 from the field for nine points in 33 minutes of action. Parker didn't take Hill's minutes; the two played together as the Spurs attempted to go small to match up with Phoenix. But Popovich, while not calling Hill out, didn't dispute the fact that the second-year guard had an off night. When asked if Hill might have been affected by Nash's early aggressiveness, well ...
"I guess you could maybe say that," Popovich said. "George didn't have a great game and Steve took it to us, so I wouldn't disagree with what you just said."
Parker played so well that the question of whether he might have played his way back into the starting lineup seemed valid. But Popovich was indifferent, and Parker willing to defer to his coach's wishes.
"Maybe, maybe not," Popovich said of the prospect of Parker resuming his role as a starter in Game 2. "I don't think it's that big a deal."
"I have no idea; I don't care," Parker said of regaining his starting spot. "Pop is the boss, and whatever he decides, that's his decision and I'll try to do my best whatever position I'm playing."
That much is clear. But it may be in the Spurs' best interest to get Parker back into the starting lineup as soon as possible. And at this point, it would be more of a surprise if it didn't happen in Game 2 than if it did.