Tony Parker returns, Spurs look vintage in knocking off Dallas. Again.

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Tony Parker was back for his first game since the All-Star Game and scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and that is going to be the big story out of the Spurs win over Dallas Sunday night. And it should be. The Spurs are finally healthy as a team and we may finally get a real read on this team as it winds up for the playoffs.

But really, this was a vintage Spurs win in other ways.

In the first half San Antonio had 10 turnovers and were sloppy against a not-that-great Dallas defense. What the Spurs do — because they have veterans who know and fully buy into the system — is correct their mistakes. They adjust as well or better than any team in the league.

That is what really happened Sunday night. It wasn’t exactly a defensive game – the Spurs finished with an offensive rating of 113.9 points per 100 possessions, the Mavs 110.2 — but the Spurs put up 64 points in the second half turning the ball over just three times and were too much down the stretch for the Mavs.

San Antonio won 112-106 and is now 3-0 against Dallas this season. Which is not good for Dallas because if the playoffs started right now this is your first round 2-7 matchup.

Parker was hot from the start, scoring 10 of first 17 for Spurs. Rust? What is this rust you speak of?

He went on to score 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and he did his damage with penetration (4-of-6 at the rim) and from the midrange (5-of-7). He was also setting guys up, dishing out 7 assists. Late in the game he drove by Dirk Nowitzki in a double team for a key bucket. More than just having him back as a starter, this solidifies the rotation and the Spurs second unit looked better for it.

Of course, Parker got help. Tim Duncan had 17 points and 9 rebounds. Manu Ginobili scored all 15 of his points in the second half (plus had 7 assists).

Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points, Vince Carter had 21 off the bench continuing his hot play of late. However Dallas just could not get defensive stops down the stretch when they needed them. The Spurs didn’t get a lot, but they got enough.

Enough that they look much the better team in a seven game series if these teams do meet come the postseason.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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