Tony Parker won’t speculate on his availability for Game 4

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SAN ANTONIO — The official word on Tony Parker on Wednesday was that an MRI confirmed a Grade 1 right hamstring strain that forced him out of Game 3 early, and that he was listed as day-to-day.

That was about as far as he would go in discussing his status for Game 4 on Thursday.

“Today the MRI just confirmed what I felt was a strain, and I was just hoping it was not a tear or a defect,” Parker said. “So the good news it’s not a tear. It’s not a defect. So that’s the good news. Now I just have to see how I’m going to feel tomorrow.”

Parker appeared at Spurs practice, but spent it sitting on the scorer’s table chatting with head coach Gregg Popovich rather than joining his teammates for light stretching and some shooting drills. Neither the coach nor the player would speculate on Parker’s availability for Game 4.

“I say day-to-day because he just had the MRI today,” Popovich said. “And they said it’s Grade 1, and that’s the lowest level of injury, I guess, for the hamstring from what they tell me. But I want to wait until tomorrow before I make a decision whether he should play or not, and obviously a lot of it will have to do with Tony, and what happens to him during the day, and how I think his play will affect our team, whether good or bad.

“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is, and we’ll see what he looks like tomorrow. A lot of it will be what he feels, I think.”

The play of the rest of the Spurs through the first three games of the series makes it easier for Parker to not feel any pressure in terms of trying to return too quickly if he isn’t right physically.

“I’m not putting pressure on myself,” Parker said. “The whole series I have to be patient. A lot of the Miami defensive focus is on me. So my teammates are taking advantage of it, and they are playing great. And hopefully they can keep it going.”

Parker did admit that with his team two wins away from a championship, he’d obviously like to go if at all possible.

“Coach Pop always prefers the rest, to avoid injury,” Parker said. “If it was the regular season I would definitely have rest. I would not play. And same thing here, it’s an injury, and so we’ll see. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow; talk with Pop.

“Obviously it’s The Finals, you know. I know Pop is always going to prefer we take no risk. I’m just going to stay positive and see how I feel tomorrow.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.