During the regular season, only 10 teams kept Tony Parker from shooting better than 50 percent from the field; except, the Thunder, along with the Jazz(?) and Rockets(Pat Beverley), were the only three teams to keep him below that mark after four encounters. In the postseason, though, TP’s been carving OKC up. That all might change once the series shifts to Oklahoma City on Sunday.
So far in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, Parker is shooting 55.2 percent from the floor and averaging one point per possession on all offensive plays that result in a shot, a turnover, or free throws, per Synergy.
The Thunder have no answer for his high pick-and-roll with Tim Duncan or Boris Diaw. If OKC drops their big back to protect the roll, Parker turns the corner and is in the paint faster than you can blink. Look at the more than 20 percent difference in the restricted area zone between their regular season matchups and the first two games without Serge Ibaka.
Then agian, if OKC’s big man hedges too hard to prevent the penetration, without Ibaka to help in the paint, San Antonio’s bigs can dive towards the rim with no one to prevent an easy score. It’s a conundrum the Thunder will have to solve if they want any chance in Game 3.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for Thunder fans. Parker played incredible during OKC’s two visits to the AT&T Center in the regular season. He was averaging 1.15 points and 1.28 points per possession in their two encounters, per Synergy. So he was scoring at a higher rate than he has been in the first two games of the Conference Finals.
So what happened when San Antonio had to travel to Oklahoma City for San Antonio’s two road games against their Western Conference rivals? Parker’s numbers plummeted.
In early April, he managed just six points, three assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes of action during a San Antonio loss. He only averaged 0.46 points per possession on that day. In late November, during San Antonio’s first trip to OKC of the regular season, Parker was a little better than April, scoring 16 points with six assists in 34 minutes of action, but he still struggled from the field (6-for-16). His PPP average that day was well below his mark for the year and the Spurs lost again.
Obviously these performances don’t necessarily mean Parker will struggle when the Spurs tip off on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder still won’t have Ibaka, who is normally a black hole in the restricted area for penetrating guards like Parker, so they’ll need to find a way to curtail his obvious advantage when a big comes out to set a screen near the arc.
Still, Parker has struggled in Oklahoma City, and if the Thunder are going to have any chance to get back into the series, forcing Tony to take contested mid-range jumpers (something he does unusually well) is still perferable over dinky layups he can hit in his sleep. He’s obviously not comfortable on the Thunder’s home floor.
If OKC can find a way to cut down on TP’s penetration without giving up buckets to a rolling big man, they might be able to claw their way out of the 2-0 deficit. As we’ve mentioned before, the Thunder have been in this spot before just two years ago, so they know what it takes to come back after going down two on the road.
Who takes Game 3 on Sunday?
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