San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker turned in a predominantly horrible Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Golden State Warriors. He bricked 13 of his 16 shots, but he nailed the ones that counted in a 94-82 series-clinching win.
After a Stephen Curry jump shot trimmed San Antonio's lead to just two points, Parker canned a clutch three-pointer to make it a five-point lead with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
It was his first field goal since his pull-up jumper tied the score at 4-4. He had been so cold that the Warriors left him wide open on the play, and they paid the price.
Then Parker drained a dagger three-pointer which extended the lead to seven points with only 75 seconds remaining. He knocked down his free throws as well, adding four points in the final minute to close out the win and put the Warriors to bed.
In his career, Parker is only a 31.3 percent shooter from behind the arc. Safe to say, it's not his forte. And he's been on an unprecedented dry spell lately, but he remained as cool as the other side of the pillow and took advantage of the opportunities when they were there.
So just how clutch is Tony Parker? And how important is he to the Spurs?
Manu Fading, Tony Rising
Manu Ginobili also struggled from the field in Game 6, shooting 1-of-6, but he assisted on both of Parker's late treys and finished the night with 11 dimes in total.
In general, Parker's offensive usage and production have increased as Ginobili's minutes and scoring have decreased.
After averaging 17.4 points and 30.3 minutes per game in 2010-11, Ginobili's numbers have fallen to 11.8 points and 23.2 minutes this season.
As a result, Parker has posted career-highs in assists over the past two seasons, and his 20.3 points per game in 2012-13 was the second-highest total of his illustrious career. He also shot better than 52 percent from the field, which is a very impressive achievement for a guard.
Were it not for some injury troubles near the end of the season, the Frenchman would have been more of a legitimate challenger to LeBron James for the MVP, but he's undeniably San Antonio's MVP as age takes its toll on Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
During the regular season, in situations with the Spurs ahead or behind by no more than five points in the final three minutes (that is, "clutch" situations), Parker posted the second-best shooting percentage among players with more than 50 field-goal attempts, shooting 23-of-51.
In those same situations, Indiana Pacers point guard George Hill shot 42 percent (18-of-43); Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley shot 14-of-44 (32 percent). As for the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, neither team's point guard would be a likely offensive option in the clutch.
Parker also piled up 17 assists in late-game situations, and his threat as a clutch scorer opens up good looks for his teammates in crunch time.
Through two rounds of the playoffs, Parker is averaging 22.4 points and 6.3 assists per game. Despite his mostly dreadful shooting performance in Game 6, his 45.2 percent shooting in the playoffs shows it was merely an aberration.
Last Point Guards Standing
The Spurs now prepare for their duel with the Grizz, who desperately need Conley to provide solid scoring.
Conley has averaged solid numbers in these playoffs as well, to the tune of 17.6 points and 7.6 dimes per game through two rounds, but his scoring has not come very efficiently. He's shooting just 38.5 percent.
San Antonio won a closeout game on the road despite two players from its Big Three slogging through atrocious shooting nights. The Spurs don't need Parker's scoring to win, but the threat of his potential always looms.
TONY PARKER, ALL IS FORGIVEN. 53.4 left, 90-81. You can feel the city of San Antonio sighing in relief if you put your ear to the ground.— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) May 17, 2013
He's played very well in these playoffs, and he probably stands as the most valuable player remaining in the postseason—aside from LeBron James.
And now that Parker has shot the Spurs into Western Conference Finals, his 161 games of playoff experience will come in handy as his fourth championship ring is nearly within reach.