When it comes time for the NBA Playoffs, teams, coaches and players have to expect anything. However, for the San Antonio Spurs, earthshaking shifts are about to take place as the fallout from the second game in the series against the Houston Rockets leaves Spurs franchise veteran Tony Parker with a likely season-ending injury.
It was in the fourth quarter in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Playoff series with the Rockets that Tony Parker went into the paint against Patrick Beverly for a shot that ultimately bounced off the rim. However, the real misfortune happened when Parker landed. He gripped his right knee, fell to the ground, and did not get up on his own. Teammates helped Parker up, but he was seen unable to put any weight on the leg as he was eventually carried to the sideline.
The 16-year Spurs point guard was scheduled immediately for an MRI on the knee and ESPN has since reported that though the results are still unclear, it will most likely result in surgery that will remove Parker from the San Antonio line-up for the rest of the NBA Playoffs. The early diagnosis is that Parker may have suffered a torn tendon in his quadriceps.
The San Antonio Spurs are going into Game 3 with the Houston Rockets and though the teams are even for the series and the Spurs pulled out a dominating victory in Game 2, finishing at 121-96 over the Rockets, they are going in hobbled without Parker. Finding the proper fill-in for Parker’s 16-year veteran point guard skills is far easier said than done, even for a seasoned court strategist like Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. That said, there’s no doubt that Popovich is weighing his options carefully based on the time the Spurs spent without Parker as they finished Game 2 defeating the Rockets.
Jonathan Simmons may once again see time on the court to fill the gaps in the Spurs game. Despite not seeing action for some time in the NBA postseason, Simmons came onto the court and helped his team execute a series of shifts that shook Houston on offense and defense in the final minutes of the the May 3 game. Of course, back-up point guard Patty Mills, with an average of 9.5 points per game, is most likely to move into the starting line-up for the time being and the general strategy will most likely continue to revolve around getting the ball into Kahwi Leonard’s hands. Leonard has had an amazing run lately, putting up 34 points on the Rockets as Wednesday alone in addition to several assists and steals.
That said, Houston has an opportunity to take the momentum away from the Spurs while they’re hurting. You don’t just replace talent like Tony Parker overnight and expect the same results. Popovich knows that, the Spurs know that, and the Houston Rockets should most certainly know that. There will be things that work, but it will undoubtedly leave some holes. Though he missed 16 games during the regular season, Tony Parker was still an active threat on both defense and offense to most NBA teams and a tenacious worker for San Antonio. The San Antonio roster has definite and various depth, but to lose Parker now is nothing short of game-breaking.
As San Antonio prepares for the rest of the season without Parker, eyes are closer on Popovich than ever to see what shifts and replacements he chooses to employ. The Spurs still have an even keel going into Game 3 with the Houston Rockets and there’s a bit of room for experimentation. It will be interesting to see how the tweaks to the Spurs game work out and how the Rockets choose to respond.
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]