Remember when Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs dominated Memphis to complete a sweep in the 2013 Western Conference Finals?
Having Tony Parker in his prime as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili began to age is the factor that set the San Antonio Spurs apart in the 2013 NBA season. There is a strong case to be made that the 2012-13 season was Parker’s best as he combined his masterful scoring ability with greater passing performances than we’d ever seen from him.
This came to a head during the postseason when Parker improved his output heading into the Western Conference Finals. Going against a division rival in the Memphis Grizzlies, Parker was well-accustomed to the style of play implemented by the ‘grit-and-grind’ Grizz. Despite the coverage of defensive-savant Tony Allen, TP9 managed to detonate in the closeout game.
Parker dropped 36 points on 15-for-21 shooting to go with six dimes and four rebounds in 39 minutes. No matter what looks the Grizzlies threw his way, Tony managed to pick apart their defense and find lanes into the paint for his signature acrobatic layups.
The veteran leader of that Spurs team leveraged the screens set by Duncan to exhaust his opponent and create space for deep mid-range jumpers. He used creative angles to flip layups up and in when attacking the paint against 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, who manned the main for Memphis with pride.
Most players in today’s game aren’t capable of dropping 36 while making and taking only one 3-pointer. His only triple came at the 9:15 mark as a heat check. Tony drew a double team off of a screen by Tiago Splitter, passed it off to his center and leaked back out to the elbow for a triple. Both defenders rushed at him and jumped to defend the shot, but it was too late. Splash.
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He managed to get to the line for six shots, hitting each of them with relative ease. Essentially, Tony got everything he wanted and more as the leading scorer in what was the Grizzlies’ last chance to redeem themselves. By that point, it didn’t matter — Tony was a man on a mission.
In the series, Parker averaged 24.5 points per game with 9.5 assists and two steals per contest. No matter how talented the Grizzlies were defensively, especially on the perimeter, there was no stopping Parker en route to his fourth NBA Finals appearance. Even though San Antonio wasn’t able to secure the victory that year, he returned to the NBA Finals in 2014 and earned his fourth title
Maybe a younger, more spry version of Parker put on quicker and flashier performances for the San Antonio Spurs, this grizzled veteran version was probably the best we’ve ever seen from him. An all-time great playoff performer, Parker will be remembered throughout NBA history as one of the most reliable contributors in big moments.
His legacy with the San Antonio Spurs and sport as a whole is cemented in history.