Spurs guard Tony Parker said Saturday the strained right hamstring that wore him down this week could tear ”any time now” heading into Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
But he’s giving no thought to letting the injury properly heal.
”If it was the regular season, I would be resting like 10 days,” Parker said. ”But now it’s the NBA Finals. If it gets a tear, it’s life.”
It would also deal a major blow to the Spurs’ chances of winning this title.
Yet despite the blunt assessment of his hamstring, the All-Star told reporters he is getting stronger on the eve of San Antonio’s final home game Sunday night. Parker said he is confident, staying disciplined with treatment and still aspires to be ”close to 100 percent” by tipoff.
That’s exactly how the 31-year-old point guard looked to start Game 4 on Thursday night, two days after straining the hamstring in a blowout win. But Parker faded badly after a sizzling start, going scoreless in the second half while the Heat pulled away and tied the series 2-all, reclaiming home-court advantage.
Parker acknowledged feeling fatigued as Game 4 dragged on. His scoring average in the Finals has dipped to 13.8 points after arguably the best season of his 12-year career.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich downplayed the severity of Parker’s injury and the struggles of another of his Big Three, guard Manu Ginobili, who is shooting a career-worst 38 percent in the playoffs but whose need to pick up the slack heightens when Parker is ailing.
”They’re fine,” Popovich said Saturday.
Popovich’s concern instead: turnovers. Especially now that the Spurs are faced with needing another win in Miami — and maybe two — in order to claim a fifth championship.
They stole Game 1 in South Beach behind an exceptionally careful and disciplined game by NBA standards — playoffs or regular season — tying a Finals record with just four turnovers. But since then, the Spurs have 49 turnovers, including 36 in two losses.
Sloppy play is one culprit. But so is the sheer athleticism and talent of the Heat, which has scored 42 points off turnovers in its two victories. Making matters worse for the Spurs in Game 4 was the resurgence of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who combined to score 85 of Miami’s 109 points on Thursday night.
San Antonio has survived careless ball protection this season, going 25-13 when committing 16 or more turnovers.
But against Miami’s Big Three, the margin for error shrinks.
”You got to be close to perfect to beat them,” Ginobili said Saturday. ”And we were pretty far from that (in Game 4). If they’re having an OK game, we can make a few mistakes here and there and we can mask it. But when they’re playing like we just can’t make mistakes.”
Popovich has stressed movement and not playing in crowds against the Heat, which is 43-3 when forcing teams into 16 or more turnovers. Spurs guard Gary Neal put a comfortable — and realistic — range of turnovers for the Spurs to win around 10 or 12.
That leaves Parker with two goals for Game 5: hope his hamstring holds up better, and play less recklessly.
”We have to understand that their identity is to play aggressive defense, and they gamble, and they’re going to take a lot of chances with steals and blocks,” Parker said. ”We just have to be smarter with our decisions.”