Even without Tony Parker, the Spurs continue to win big and remain in front in the West.
By ART GARCIA FS Southwest
For all those riding along on the
Tony Parker MVP Bandwagon, the road to the Maurice Podoloff Trophy has hit a few potholes. And it's not because Parker is out for a month with a bum ankle.
No, because the
Spurs never seem to hit any potholes.
San Antonio just keeps winning, moving to 2-0 without Parker after rolling over the Chicago Bulls in the second half in Wednesday night's 101-83 whitewash. Tony is certainly missed, not that anyone can tell.
"It's going to be hard without Tony to win these games,"
Kawhi Leonard said earlier this week.
Really? In the two games since Parker sprained his left ankle against Sacramento, the Spurs have crushed their foes by 57 points. MVP voters see that. They see a team that continues to operate in the next-man-up system.
Not that Parker was going to overtake LeBron James in the MVP race anyway, but French point guard was at least in the conversation. He'll still be in it when he get back, it's just the talk will be whether Parker finishes in the top 3.
In the meantime, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has turned over much of the playmaking responsibility to
Manu Ginobili. Good decision. Manu creates havoc, as we all know, in a different style than Tony.
Parker slices into the paint with a surgeon's precision and either finishes at the rim or shoots the ball out to an open shooter. Manu is a whirlwind who rifles left-handed passes into the lane at speeds Joe Flacco can appreciate.
The Spurs, in the small sample size without Parker, are focusing on all five guys on the floor moving and moving the ball.
"We have to with the lack of Tony's penetration, the way he does almost every play,"
Tim Duncan said. "We're going to move the ball and use a lot of pick-and-rolls. We're going to use a lot of body movement. Hopefully we can take advantage of that and make some shots and make some passes that makes easy baskets for us because we're going to need it."
The Spurs can also rely on their depth. In addition to Ginobili picking up the slack, Pop can turn to Cory Joseph,
Patty Mills, Stephen Jackson and Nando De Colo. None of those guys are Parker, but it's a solid stopgap in the interim. Gary Neal – remember him? – wasn't even used Wednesday night.
"When you look who they're bringing off the bench, for example, Patty Mills," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's a terrific shooter. Ginobili is an All-Star. Stephen Jackson has been a great player in the league for a long time. [
Boris] Diaw has been a starter in the league, so there's a lot coming at you."
Ginobili paced the Spurs offense with 18 points and nine assists against Chicago. Over his last three games, Ginobili is averaging 14.7 points, 9.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting 59 percent from the floor and 55-percent from 3-point range.
Duncan is working on a streak of four consecutive double-doubles. Mills scored 13 against Chicago. Leonard is averaging 14.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals since Feb. 1.
"We all have to fill the shoes of Tony being out," Mills said.
There's value up and down the San Antonio roster, a reason the Spurs own the league's best record. That value is also the reason Tony Parker won't be the league's most valuable.
It took a bum ankle to show us what we all already knew.