Except for one new wrinkle.
That point guard with the knack for late-game heroics. I don’t remember him in the fourth quarter of the Western Conference Finals last year.
That's because Tony Parker watched Russell Westbrook overwhelm him in the Western Conference Finals last season. He watched the tape over and over—and he’s better this season for it.
Parker has hit two go-ahead jumpers in the Spurs’ first two wins of 2012. The most recent, to his delight, was at the expense of Westbrook. The Thunder PG lost Parker in a sea of bodies, while the Spurs’ trigger man swished a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer.
The Basketball Jones’ J.E. Skeets likes what he saw from Parker in crunch time against OKC:
I love how Tony Parker didn't force the three there. Collect, one-dribble left, game. Incredible poise. #Spurs— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) November 2, 2012
Parker quietly played an efficient game leading the Spurs to victory, scoring 14 points along with 11 dishes. He has shown he can switch gears and be their go-to scorer as well, exhibited by his 23 points against the Hornets on Thursday.
His teammates have taken notice too. Danny Green found him open at the left elbow and had no hesitation giving Parker the ball with the game on the line. The night before, Kawhi Leonard did the same, finding Parker for a three-ball to propel his team ahead for good.
Parker’s confidence in his jump shot makes him the Spurs’ top option in crunch-time. With the ball in his hands, he’s the Spurs’ best playmaker, a combination of speed, shooting and court vision.
As long as Manu Ginobili struggles with back pain, Parker will continue to strangle the crunch-time reps.
Fresh off two go-ahead jumpers in two games, the Frenchman’s confidence is sky high. He’ll keep shooting in the fourth quarter until his heat check runs out.
Going against the mold, Spurs didn’t change their roster for 2012. Perhaps they knew something about their point guard that we’re just beginning to find.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealShiek