The San Antonio Spurs looked like they were up against the odds on Wednesday as they traveled to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Timberwolves without two of their stars, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in the lineup.
The odds don’t take into account that Tony Parker can take over a game by himself.
San Antonio topped Minnesota 104-94 with the French point guard leading all scorers with 31 points and adding eight assists and five rebounds. He also did so while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and going a perfect 9-9 from the charity stripe.
His 31 points were obviously huge in the Spurs getting the victory. But the way that he opens up opportunities for his teammates with his game is an even larger part of why the Spurs were successful.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green combined to make 10 threes over the game. Of those 10 triples, Parker assisted on five of them, and it’s not hard to understand why. Parker is one of the best in the NBA at working his way into the lane to collapse the defense, which leaves shooters like Green and Leonard open from deep.
That’s just what Parker does. He’s obviously a capable scorer, but that scoring ability also allows his teammates to get open looks because defenses are forced to pay so much attention to him.
If they don’t pay attention to him, Parker will definitely burn them for it. After all, he does lead the Spurs in points (20.1) and assists (7.6) per game, and also has the third-highest field goal percentage on the team at 53.4 percent. That percentage is the highest for a point guard in the NBA by 4.9 percent.
He’s obviously dangerous, and has the stats to back that up. The crazy part is that Parker somehow doesn’t garner as much attention as most players of his caliber do. He’s not overlooked, but he also doesn’t get near the appreciation he deserves.
With Duncan and Ginobili both aging and battling injuries on-and-off, Parker is the unquestioned leader on the floor for San Antonio in both his demeanor and his performance. On most nights, if he doesn’t step-up, the Spurs really don’t have a chance at getting a win.
But possibly the most special thing about Parker is that he almost never fails to step up. That’s why the Spurs currently have the best record in the league at 39-11. Without Parker playing at the level that he is, it feels like they would be in the middle of the Western Conference standings battling for a playoff spot.
Parker is consistently putting on a show and is carrying the Spurs to all of the success that they’ve enjoyed this season. The craziest part of all, though, is that not many people seem to notice. But maybe that’s just the way Parker likes to operate – as a silent assassin.