Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs Run the Oklahoma City Thunder Ragged
San Antonio's emphasis on offensive movement and transition play are easily traceable to Parker's influence, and though Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili remain key components of the Spurs' success, neither catalyzes the team in the same way.
Parker's end-to-end speed may be his most obvious weapon and contribution to San Antonio's renovated sensibility, but Game 2 of the Western Conference finals showcased the impact of his pacing in a more complete capacity.
Initiating the break is a valuable skill, but Parker was able to dominate the Thunder with his pace and movement in possession and work over their entire team defense by refusing to idle.
Russell Westbrook actually appeared to do a solid job of locking in on Parker and fighting through screens on first watch, but it's a testament to both Parker and San Antonio's complete concept that even Westbrook's best efforts were ultimately in vain.
By driving, circling back or finding the open man, Parker torched a slew of big men who had no hope of containing him on the far side of his ball screens. At game's end, the point guard had unleashed for 34 points on a jarring 16-of-21 shooting.
Sixteen makes in 21 attempts, with one of the league's most athletic and aggressive defenders shadowing him at every turn, a slew of long-armed foes supposedly walling off his way to the rim and the league's leading shot-blocker lurking somewhere on the back line.
None of it made a bit of difference.
Parker's quick moves and quicker counters were ahead of the Thunder defense the entire way, as he skittered around and between those who dared attempt to stick him.
The ball went through the natural mechanisms of San Antonio's offense, but thanks to his never-ending circling and slashing, Parker always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Whether through a curl cut around a down screen or an instantaneous drive from the weak side, the ball would inevitably find him again.
San Antonio's ball movement made him an incredible threat virtually at all times and gave Westbrook and the Thunder no respite from defending his advances.
The attacks just kept coming.
Parker and the Spurs were relentless in their efforts to push the ball after a forced turnover or a long defensive rebound. Most impressive of all, their consistent flurries of driving and passing challenged Oklahoma City several times within a matter of seconds.
In conventional terms, "pace" applies to the number of possessions within a single game and how that total is impacted by style of play. But the Spurs' brilliance—channeled through Parker—lies in their ability to turn pace into a half-court concept.
The tempo and focus of their possessions is off the charts, and though the Thunder aren't uniquely disadvantaged in their matchup against the NBA's most potent offense, that doesn't make them any less vulnerable to the repeated strikes of Parker and the offense he helped inspire.
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