SAN ANTONIO -- Entering Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, the big issue surrounding the San Antonio Spurs was whether Tony Parker’s hamstring would hold up.
The star point guard had torched opponents throughout the playoffs — including hitting the game-winner against the Heat in Game 1 — but sustained a hamstring strain in Game 3 that left him day to day. The veteran opted to play in Game 4, and through the first two quarters, he kept the Spurs in the game.
“He was just carving us up [in the first half],” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
But under Miami’s defense, he went cold in the second half and the Heat caught fire. As a result, Miami won 109-93 and regained home-court advantage. Parker scored 15 first-half points on 7-of-12 shooting but was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting in the second half.
“Miami did a great job on him,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, dismissing the idea that the hamstring affected Parker. “Miami did a great job on him. They doubled. They got it out of his hands, and other people had to play. But they did a good job on him defensively.”
While Parker struggled over the final two quarters, Mario Chalmers finally showed signs of life in San Antonio. The Heat point guard hit two three-pointers to go along with four assists in the third quarter. With 5:42 left in the quarter, Mike Miller swung the ball to Chalmers in the corner, where he buried a three to put the Heat up 65-61. After Miller blocked a Kawhi Leonard jumper, Chalmers pushed the ball up the floor to LeBron James for a dunk. Three minutes later, James returned the favor, finding Chalmers for a three-pointer to give the Heat an eight-point lead — its largest of the quarter.
For Chalmers, the turnaround — however small — was welcome. Through the first six quarters in San Antonio, Chalmers was a nonfactor. He was hit with three quick fouls in Game 3 and was held scoreless, missing all five of his shots and turning it over four times. Making matters worse for the Heat, backup Norris Cole hasn’t been much better, hitting 3 of 12 shots in Games 3 and 4.
Chalmers came into San Antonio after having scored 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting with two three-pointers to lead the Heat in a Game 2 victory. It was the type of performance that helped the Heat claim the first title of the LeBron James Era last season when he scored in double figures in three of the five games against Oklahoma City — including 25 in Game 4.
Parker, meanwhile, made his strongest contributions in the second quarter with the Heat — having already erased a 10-point Spurs lead — threatening to pull away. Miami was up 41-32 with 5:59 remaining when Parker reentered the game for Manu Ginobili and almost single-handedly prevented a Miami onslaught.
“It was kind of weak,” Parker said of the hamstring. “I didn’t know what to expect. The first three to four minutes, I was testing it. In the second half, I think I got fatigued a little bit. Overall, I’m just glad I didn’t get worse.”