|28 May 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Tony Parker delivered another fantastic performance on Monday, finishing with a game-high 37 points|
France's Tony Parker delivered another memorable performance on Monday night to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 93-86 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on the road and a 4-0 sweep of their Western Conference finals series.
Parker finished with a game-high 37 points on 15-for-21 shooting from the floor and added six assists on Monday; in the series against Marc Gasol's Memphis, the French point guard averaged 24.5 points and 9.5 assists.
The Spurs have reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, when they actually won their third title since Parker's arrival (fourth overall) and the 31-year-old playmaker was named MVP of the Finals.
Parker was the first European player in history to take home an NBA champions ring and a Finals MVP award and only Dirk Nowitzki, with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, has been able to emulate that feat.
Few people at the start of the season gave the Spurs a chance to earn another shot at the title this year, when the two other stars on the team, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, are reaching 37 and 36 years of life, respectively.
Parker was aware of the circumstances, of their short chances, and of the sheer difficulty of the endeavour.
"For me, personally, I was 21 when I won my first title [in 2003] and you think it's easy and you're going to go back every year. In 2007, I won my third one in five years," he said on Monday.
"Six years go by and every year it gets tougher and tougher. Every team wants to beat you.
"That's why it's even more special to go back after all these years and be playing at a high level with the same coach and the same 'Big Three.'"
There is no doubt in the mind of the other components which Parker has named, that he is now the one charged with elevating this Spurs side to a level that reminds everyone of their best years together.
"He's been amazing," Duncan said.
"Every year he gets better and better and better.
"He's been carrying us. You can see tonight [Monday] he carried us the entire game."
|Marc Gasol is confident that the Grizzlies will return stronger next season|
Memphis meanwhile managed to do little to limit the action of the French star, and not for lack of trying.
"He was outstanding the whole series and he controlled the games with his penetration," Memphis head coach Mike Hollins said of Parker.
"He made shots, made plays; in one game he has 18 assists, today [Monday] he has 37 points; he was huge."
While the Spurs have been synonymous of success in the last decade or so, the Grizzlies had never reached as far as a conference finals before.
Their unprecedented deep post-season run has largely been possible because Spain's Marc Gasol has established himself as one of the top centers in the NBA.
He averaged 17.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 blocks in the play-offs, and despite his disappointment on Monday, he warned Memphis would be back stronger next year.
"We're going to be better [next year] because we played against, to me, one of the greatest teams there's been in the past 15 years," the Spanish big man said.
The Spurs will now do battle in the NBA Finals against the Eastern Conference champions; the Miami Heat are currently holding a 2-1 advantage over the Indiana Pacers in the East finals.