While the slumping San Antonio Spurs are tied for the Western Conference lead, they may have to continue their quest for the No. 1 seed without their All-Star point guard.
After sitting out Wednesday's 98-84 win over Orlando due to a sore left ankle, Parker returned the following night in a crucial matchup at Oklahoma City. Parker, though, finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting before leaving with a shin injury in a 100-88 loss.
"It looked like he had no energy to start the game and then as he went, he looked to me like he was limping," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We saw him coming across halfcourt actually limping one time, and that's when we pulled him and I said to him, 'Tony, you got to stop.'"
Losers in three of four, the Spurs, who also continue to play without the injured Manu Ginobili (strained hamstring), are tied with the Thunder for first place in the West. Oklahoma City holds the tiebreaker.
"Obviously, Tony's down, Manu's down, so it's a concern, especially in this part of the season," said Tim Duncan, averaging 22.2 points and 11.9 rebounds over his last 10 games. "But it's part of the game, so we've got to play through it."
While Parker's absence could prove costly, the team wants to make sure he's back to full strength come playoff time. Parker, averaging team highs of 20.6 points and 7.5 assists, is one of just three players averaging at least 20.0 and 7.0 per game.
"I'm not going to talk about all my stuff. I've got a lot of stuff going on, but I just have to get healthy," said Parker, who also missed eight games in early March with left ankle troubles.
"I'll just talk with the medical staff and talk with Pop and try to make the best decision and make sure I'm 100 percent and healthy for the playoffs, because that's the most important thing."
The Spurs now turn their attention to Atlanta (42-35), which has been outscored by an average of 18.6 points during its skid in San Antonio. The Hawks have also dropped 11 of 12 in the series overall, including four straight.
Parker had 23 points and 12 assists in the Spurs' 98-93 win at Atlanta on Jan. 19.
The Hawks are coming off Friday's 101-90 loss to Philadelphia. Josh Smith had 19 points and Al Horford added 18 and 10 rebounds, but Atlanta was never really in it after getting outscored 40-26 in the first quarter.
"How you can come out and play like that when the game has that type of meaning is beyond me," coach Larry Drew said.
While they have already clinched a playoff berth, the Hawks dropped one game behind Chicago for fifth place in the East.
"Going back to training camp ... we've had to be a team that is gritty, a blue-collar team, particularly on the defensive end," Drew told the league's official website. "Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten who we are. ... I'm very concerned about the mentality of our team."
The Hawks, who have lost three straight road games against West opponents, have also dropped four of their last five road games when playing the second of back-to-backs.