Tony Parker appeared to be on the decline for much of the season, producing at a lackluster level compared to his previous excellence.
He’s finding his form with the playoffs on the horizon, however, which could mean bad news for the Dallas Mavericks as they try to avoid a third straight loss Tuesday night.
Parker came into the season with 1,136 regular-season and playoff games to his name, third most in the league since he entered it in 2001-02, trailing teammate Tim Duncan and Derek Fisher. He averaged 17.1 points and 49.5 percent shooting in the regular season prior to 2014-15, but is averaging 14.9 points and 48.3 percent this season – his lowest marks since scoring 14.7 per contest and hitting 44.7 in 2003-04.
Parker has shot 58.5 percent and averaged 19.9 points over his last 10, however, and the Spurs (44-25) have won 10 of 12 to pull within one game of the fifth-place Clippers. He also owns a 3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last 12 contests compared to a 2.0 mark previously, a crucial improvement given that San Antonio is 23-9 when he commits two or fewer turnovers.
Parker isn’t the only Spur playing well. Kawhi Leonard has averaged 20.0 points in his last 11 games and Tiago Splitter has scored 41 over the past two. The contributions have been key with Manu Ginobili missing the last four games with a sprained ankle.
"We’ve just played together for a long time," said Splitter, who scored a season-high 23 in a 114-95 win at Atlanta on Sunday. "We haven’t made many changes in our team. Just good guys, good players that know each other and try to do their best."
Parker has victimized Dallas, averaging 22.8 points and 56.3 percent shooting while winning his last six matchups. He hit the winning 3-pointer with 1:07 left and scored 23 in a 101-100 home victory over the Mavericks on Oct. 28. He didn’t play in a 99-93 road loss to them Dec. 20.
The Mavericks (44-27) trail the Spurs by one game, and coach Rick Carlisle called the team’s performance an "embarrassment" in a 98-92 loss at Phoenix on Sunday. Dallas blew a six-point lead with less than five minutes remaining after rallying from a 17-point deficit.
Monta Ellis was 4 for 22 and has gone 7 for 31 in his last two games. The Mavericks have a difficult time winning when Ellis is inefficient, going 8-16 when he shoots worse than 40.0 percent.
"Hey, he had a bad shooting night," Carlisle said. "That’s the way it goes. But if we show up in the first half and play like we’re capable, we’re not talking about a bad shooting night. We’re probably winning the game and doing what we’re supposed to do.
"This is not a Monta Ellis problem. This is a Dallas Mavericks hard-play problem. We don’t play hard all the time, that’s the problem."
Ellis could be poised to bounce back as he’s averaged 25.6 points in his last 17 matchups with the Spurs. He’s scored 64 points and shot 59.1 percent in two meetings this season.
The Spurs have won four of five on the road since losing four straight.