The San Antonio Spurs might be the most unselfish team in the NBA. They led the league in assists in the 2013-14 regular season, with 25.2 per game. Nine Spurs averaged at least eight points per game, and no Spurs averaged more than 17. "Share the ball" isn't just a tired cliche to this team—it is a way of life.
But head coach Gregg Popovich would like one of his players to subvert that mantra of unselfishness heading into a critical Game 3 in Dallas against the Mavericks. Believe it or not, Coach Pop wants point guard Tony Parker to shoot more.
According to the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe, Parker admitted that the boss urged him to take more shots, particularly if Dallas defenders back off him in the pick-and-roll: "Today, Pop told me if I have to shoot 25 times, I have to shoot 25 times. If that's what they're going to give me and go under the pick-and-rolls, that's what I have to do."
Shooting 25 times? How un-Spurs-like! Parker attempted at least 25 field goals only once—a Nov. 30 loss to the Houston Rockets.
The Spurs lone 2014 All-Star, Parker led the Spurs in points (16.7) and field-goal attempts (13.4) per game in the regular season.
Though he posted similar numbers during the first two games of this series—16. 5 points and 13.0 field-goal attempts—Parker was relegated to third-leading scorer as both Manu Ginobili (22.0) and Tim Duncan (19.0) averaged more points per game.
The Spurs certainly seemed out of sorts during their first two games, as Dallas blew them out in Game 2 and came within a late-game collapse of sweeping both games in San Antonio.
This won't be the first time the Spurs have turned to Parker to carry their offense in the postseason. The 31-year-old Frenchman averaged 20.6 points and 7.0 assists per game in the 2012-13 playoffs as San Antonio came within a Ray Allen jumper of winning its fifth NBA title. Had the Spurs hung on in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Parker likely would have won the second finals MVP award of his career (he also won in 2007).
No matter what Parker does, this figures to be a series of adjustments, as Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has done a masterful job so far in the series.
Carlisle's tactics have already caused Grantland's Bill Simmons to revise his prediction for the series:
I can’t believe I assumed (like so many others) that San Antonio would roll over Dallas and forgot the following things: too much history, too much Carlisle (here’s a good summary of his Jedi mind trick in Game 2), too much pride, too much Dirk, too much Cubes, too much Texas, too much Devin Harris, too much Joey Crawford. It’s going six or seven.
Of course, Popovich is no slouch, either. This series will continue to be a master's class, delivered by two brilliant, title-winning coaches. We should just sit back and enjoy the ride.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.