Tony Parker netted 37 points, his highest-scoring game of the season, as the San Antonio Spurs defeated Memphis 93-86 on Monday to complete a playoff sweep and advance to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs finished a 4-0 rout of the Grizzlies in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals and reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, when they swept the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers for their fourth title in nine seasons.
“It seems like forever since we have been there,” the Spurs’ star big man Tim Duncan said. “We have been driven and we’re glad to get back there.”
French guard Parker, briefly knocked out of the game by a slap to the face, made 15 of 21 shots from the field, and had six assists and four rebounds in powering the Spurs to their sixth playoff triumph in a row.
“I’m glad we’re done with them. They are very physical,” Parker said. “Now we have a week off. That will be nice.”
The Spurs, who have never lost in the NBA Finals, will face the Eastern Conference winners, either James and defending champions the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers, in the best-of-seven championship series starting on Thursday next week.
San Antonio, who would have a home-court edge over Indiana, but not Miami, won the NBA crown for the first time in 1999 over New York. They also took the title in 2003 over New Jersey, then in 2005 and 2007 over Detroit.
Coach Gregg Popovich and Duncan, a three-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, have been on every Spurs team to reach the championship series, but this time it might just be 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Parker who holds the key to San Antonio’s title dreams.
“He has been amazing,” Duncan said. “We have been riding his coattails. He has been carrying us. You see it tonight. He just takes over.”
Popovich ranked the performance among the best he has seen from Parker.
“He has had a lot of very good games. This one has to rank right up there,” Popovich said. “He has been fantastic. People just look at his scoring. He has played defense too.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins agreed that Parker was the dominant force in the series, despite a Spurs defense that kept the Grizzlies shooting only 37.2 percent from the field.
“He was outstanding,” Hollins said of Parker.
“He controlled the whole series. He was huge. They earned the win. They deserved to move on. I’m proud of the way our team fought and battled. We gave ourselves a chance,” he said.
Parker, who scored 14 points in the third quarter, downplayed his own role, playing up Duncan’s 15 points and eight rebounds, as well as the contributions of all his teammates.
“It’s more my team,” Parker said. “They are setting great picks for me. I’m always feeding off my teammates.”
Quincy Pondexter came off the bench to lead Memphis with 22 points. Marc Gasol added 14 points and Zach Randolph scored 13.
“We’re thrilled to be able to win the series, but Memphis was a hell of a competitor,” Popovich said.
The Spurs led by as many as 12 points before Memphis pulled within 72-66 entering the fourth quarter and within 76-73 on Tony Allen’s layup with 9 minutes, 38 seconds to play.
San Antonio answered with an 11-4 run to seize command, Duncan scoring six points in the spurt and Parker adding five, hitting a three-pointer over two defenders and a jumper, before being briefly sent to the locker room.
Parker was struck in the face by the left hand of Gasol as he launched a missed shot. While the Frenchman crumpled to the court, Gasol stopped to check on him even as his Memphis teammates scored without him.
After a quick trip to the locker room, Parker returned to the Spurs bench and went back into the game, hitting a jumper to lift San Antonio ahead 89-81 with 4:13 to play.
Pondexter hit two free throws and Randolph added another to pull Memphis within 89-84, then a turnover by Parker set up a Gasol jumper that cut San Antonio’s lead to 89-86 with 48 seconds remaining, but Parker answered with four free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory for the Spurs.