An incendiary run of shooting by a young player can capture the entire basketball world and cast a shadow on his teammates and opponents. It's hard to blame the viewers of the NBA when this happens. We love momentum as much as she loves not paying for drinks at the bar. As she decides which team to go home with on any given night, we're sitting there off to the side watching every flirtation as if it's some dating reality show.
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While Stephen Curry has been setting the playoffs on fire, the San Antonio Spurs' point guard has also been having a great first three weeks of the postseason. After his great first half to establish a weapon the Golden State Warriors had to focus on defensively, Tony Parker reminded the world that he can play a little basketball as well. For much of the season, Parker was regarded a player that should probably get included in the MVP debate. It didn't mean he should win MVP at any point in the season; it's just that people wanted to make sure his play went recognized by the masses.
Parker doesn't do the things that Curry does. He doesn't pull up from five feet behind the 3-point line and steal the collective breath of the crowd as they wait to see the trajectory of the basketball. A flick of Parker's wrist isn't nearly as exciting as the flick of Curry's. But there he was stealing the breath of the Oracle Arena crowd during the first half of Game 3 on Friday night as he peppered the defense with mid-range jumpers.
He scored 25 points in the first half and needed just 14 shots to get there. He wasn't drawing fouls and putting the Warriors' defenders into foul trouble. He was running the pick-and-roll, finding the open midrange areas, and burying the jumpers. As he'd rotate his hand from the side of the basketball toward the top of it and cross it from one side of his body to the other, he surveyed the open hardwood in front of him. Tim Duncan was rolling to the hoop and, because Parker has never been a 3-point threat, he was foolishly given space coming around the screen.
That's where he hurts you the most, though. He often went to the left side of the floor, stopped his body's momentum by jumping straight up as he hit the brakes leaning to his left, and used his compact shooting motion to rip the ball through the net. By the time the second half got there, the threat of his weaponry was the focus of the defense. That opened up the floor for Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. From there, the Spurs did what they often do: they executed down the stretch of a tight game and never let the Warriors feel like they had a chance to steal it at the end.
Instead, the thievery came from the Spurs taking back home-court advantage and telling Oracle Arena that their stacked decibels were not going to rattle the visitors. The sore throats of tomorrow were going to be for naught, and the vibrating palms of 40,000 hands that had been smacking together to flood the eardrums of the intruders were going to be red for no reason. The Oracle was taken down for one night. And even if it's just for that one night, Tony Parker did his job in the quiet, unassuming way that he has done it for years.
There wasn't anything flashy to what he did. It was just the same stuff that he has done for multiple title teams over the years. It was the same stuff that earned him the 2007 NBA Finals MVP. He might not outplay Stephen Curry often in this series, but the Warriors were reminded he's every bit the threat that people believed he was during the MVP debates going on months ago.