SAN ANTONIO — Tony Parker was spectacular in the first half of Game 4 on Thursday, and showed no ill effects of the Grade 1 hamstring strain that he suffered in the previous game. He was quick, energetic, and explosive, and completed some spectacular plays that kept the Spurs right there with the Heat through the first two quarters.
After Parker scored 15 points and dished out six assists in 18 first half minutes, he went scoreless the rest of the game, finishing 0-for-4 from the field while playing just 13 minutes over the final two periods.
With two days off before a critical Game 5, Parker expects that the layoff will help him get healthy to the point where he can be a factor for the entire game, instead of just for half of it.
“It’s going to be huge for me,” Parker said after Game 4. “Obviously, definitely got fatigued in the second half. Those two days I’m going to make sure I do a lot of treatment and get to 100 percent. Tonight I was not 100 percent, but by Sunday that’s my goal, to be good to go.”
Parker reported good news on Friday, telling Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports that he was feeling better, and felt “no extra pain” the morning after playing more than 31 minutes.
Parker was the Spurs’ leading scorer during the regular season, and averaged 20.3 points and 7.6 assists. His numbers are down a bit in the Finals due to scoring just six points in Game 3 (where he tweaked the hamstring), as well as that scoreless second half on Thursday. But the way he initiates his team’s offense and gets them into their sets, he is as vital to their overall success as anyone else on the roster.
The Spurs will need a healthy Parker to meet their goal of winning two of the next three games in the series, so they’ll certainly take his report as a positive — especially with two days still to go until Sunday’s Game 5 tips off.
Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)
Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.
You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)
“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”
It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.
It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.
Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.
“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.
Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs
Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.