Tony Parker's Craziest NBA Finals Performances

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 5, 2013

Tony Parker's Craziest NBA Finals Performances

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    As the San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker prepares for the fourth NBA Finals of his 12-year career, he's still battling to garner recognition from a historic standpoint.

    Somehow a career 17.1 scoring average, 49.4 career field-goal percentage and seven 20.0-plus player efficiency ratings in the last eight seasons just isn't convincing enough for some absent-minded analysts.

    It's either one of the more egregious violations the basketball world has ever seen, or just the latest example of the San Antonio Spurs' Rodney Dangerfield effect. Five All-Star Game selections, three championship rings and a Finals MVP and the guy still gets no respect.

    Still it's hard to imagine him viewing life in San Antonio as anything remotely close to a curse. He was an NBA champion after just two seasons in the league and added two more rings to his resume by his sixth year in the league.

    Life is unfair, sure, but the slights by the press have been eradicated and then some by the basketball gods.

    Of course, Parker's been far more than a fortunate bystander in his trio of title runs. In fact, he's the proud owner of several of the finest finals performances in Spurs' history.

Game 4, 2007

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    The 2007 NBA Finals were supposed to be a coming-out party. Or a coronation, rather.

    LeBron James, long hailed as "The King," had put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and willed them to their first title appearance in franchise history.

    What ended up happening, though, was a coming-of-age performance for the new face of the Spurs.

    Parker put his brilliant skill set on full display, even though a large chunk of the basketball world missed his dominance. The series produced the worst ratings in NBA Finals history.

    But Parker and his teammates didn't care who was watching. And they didn't care about who was standing on the other end of the floor. What fans failed to witness was the passing of the torch in San Antonio, another championship series that produced the same ending with a new leading actor.

    Parker torched the Cavs to the tune of 24.5 points on a mind-boggling 56.8 percent field-goal shooting in the four-game sweep. 

    When San Antonio moved in range of the kill shot, it relied on Parker as its trigger man. And he answered the bell by scoring 24 points (10-of-14 from the field), grabbing seven rebounds and securing NBA Finals MVP honors for his wildly productive series.

Game 2, 2003

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    Parker didn't have to be the man for San Antonio in the 2003 NBA Finals. Future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tim Duncan was operating at peak performance, while Parker was still getting his feet wet as an NBA sophomore.

    But the Spurs couldn't afford to have Parker be a passive observer, either. Not with him being matched up against another future Hall of Famer, New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd.

    Whatever butterflies Parker may have been feeling in Game 1 of the series (16 points, 6-of-14 from the field) couldn't find their way to Game 2.

    The Nets focused their defensive efforts on slowing down Duncan, who needed 19 field-goal attempts for his 19 points. But that opened up space for Parker to operate, and he spent the rest of the night poking and prodding the New Jersey defense.

    He poured in a team-high 21 points on an efficient 9-of-17 shooting performance from the field. He dished out five assists (against one turnover) and corralled five rebounds in his 41 minutes.

    But New Jersey coach Byron Scott's defensive approach proved to be a wise strategy. Despite Parker's big night, the Spurs fell to the Nets by a count of 87-85.

Game 3, 2003

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    After a two-game glimpse at San Antonio's young star, New Jersey thought it had Parker figured out.

    The Nets committed more to closing off his driving lanes, still limiting Duncan's looks (21 points, 6-of-13) and daring Parker to beat them from deep.

    It wasn't a bad strategy by any stretch. Through two seasons in the league, Parker had misfired on 289 of his 432 three-point attempts (33.1 percent).

    But the point guard took what the defensive gave him, finding success from an area where he had struggled historically. Parker buried four of his six shots from distance, single-handedly matching New Jersey's long-range production on seven fewer attempts.

    If the book was out on Parker, if the way to contain him was to force him to be a jump shooter, then the book lied. Only three of his nine made field goals came from within 20 feet of the basket, and he ripped off a game-high 26 points.

    He was equally impressive as a playmaker. He tossed out six assists while committing just one turnover in 43 minutes.

    And this time Parker's production wasn't wasted. After being held to just 54 points over the first three quarters, the Spurs erupted for 30 in the fourth and escaped with an 84-79 victory.

Game 1, 2007

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    No win means more than the last one in a best-of-seven series. But there's always a nice boost of confidence from drawing first blood.

    The battle-tested Spurs played with a sense of purpose in their opening game against the up-and-coming Cavs. They scratched out a five-point edge in the first quarter, held steady in the second, then broke the game wide open with a commanding 24-14 edge in the third.

    Parker was right in the middle of each positive San Antonio stride, often picking up the Spurs' foot after helping to plant the other on solid ground.

    He scored six of San Antonio's first 12 points and assisted on four others. He added six more points in the second quarter, four of which came on a single San Antonio possession. He finished a strong drive with a layup through Larry Hughes' foul, missed his and-1 free throw, corralled his own miss and tossed in a nine-footer.

    He scored or assisted on 10 of the Spurs' 24 points in that decisive third quarter, then poured in nine points in the closing period.

    The box score in San Antonio's 85-76 win shone light on Parker's across-the-board production. He led all scorers with 27 points, led all distributors with seven assists and added four rebounds and two steals in his 38-plus minutes.

Game 2, 2007

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    While his aforementioned effort in the series clincher officially cemented his Finals MVP status, the award could have easily been handed out after two games.

    No matter whom Mike Brown threw in his way, Parker found an endless array of paths to the basket.

    And this wasn't the unselfish Parker, either. San Antonio needed his scoring, and he delivered with the most points he ever tallied in a Finals game.

    He led all scorers in the first and third quarters and was only two points off of James' pace in the second. The Spurs carried an 89-62 advantage into the fourth quarter, so Parker spent the majority of that period watching the reserves handle the clean-up duties.

    Parker came impressively close to pouring in a point per minute, finishing with a game-high 30 (on 13-of-20 field-goal shooting) in less than 36 minutes of action. He didn't exactly stuff the rest of his stat sheet (four boards, two dimes and a steal), but he masterfully handled his biggest responsibility.

    San Antonio coasted to a 103-92 victory then wrapped up the series four nights later.