The San Antonio Spurs offense started and ended with Tony Parker on Thursday night in game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Time and again, Parker got things going for his team in a 107-86 win at AmericanAirlines Arena, consistently making the initial drives and the first passes that set the Silver and Black machine in motion.
His forays into the Miami paint contorted the defense, luring defenders in and forcing them to once again make the choices they are still struggling with four games into a series that San Antonio now leads 3-1.
Then, Parker took advantage.
The point guard finished the first half without an official assist, but he often found the open man who then found the more open man, left uncovered as the delayed result of Parker’s penetration.
It was a Ponzi scheme of assists, and he started it all.
But Parker finished plenty, too. The Spurs jumped out to a 13-4 lead to start the game, thanks in part to two Parker jumpers.
In the second quarter, Parker returned to his adopted domain around the net.
He made a layup through contact, hit a pull-up after driving by his initial defender, and put home the off-footed layin that could be called The Parker.
Parker finished with 19 points.
“[I had] more opportunity in transition and I just took advantage,” he said at halftime.
Parker scored 15 points or more in four of last year’s seven Finals games, shooting 41 percent from the floor. He has had 15 in each of the four games thus far in 2014, shooting 51 percent along the way — just another Spur who has played incrementally better compared with a year ago.
The other San Antonio cogs did what was expected of them, too. Danny Green hit 60 percent of his three-pointers. Kawhi Leonard flustered LeBron James early — though James went off in the third quarter — and brought down 14 rebounds after averaging two a game in San Antonio.
Boris Diaw continued throwing wraparound passes and bullying smaller defenders. Tim Duncan tallied his record 158th playoff double-double.
Reliable, reliable, reliable, and all sparked by Parker.
“We just play Spurs basketball,” Parker said. “We like to integrate the extra pass — we preach that — and right now we are clicking.”
On paper, it was not a typical Parker performance. He finished with just two assists to go with four turnovers. He did not shoot his first three throw until there was 2:08 left in the third quarter. He never got the corner three that often comes as a dagger. Instead, Parker set others up for those moments.
Parker was the Finals MVP the last time his Spurs beat James in the Finals — in 2007 when LeBron was in Cleveland. San Antonio was just a couple Game 2 free throws away from sweeping James’ team again Thursday, thanks in large part to the point guard with just two assists.