|22 May 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Tony Parker dished out a career-high 18 assists in the Spurs' overtime win in Game 2|
Even as 37-year-old legend Tim Duncan peels back a year off his legs with every rebound and every low-post move, the two most-talked about players in the NBA right now are two Europeans.
Tony Parker of France and Marc Gasol of Spain have been the best performers for the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies, respectively, in the Western Conference play-off finals which the Spurs lead 2-0 as of Tuesday night.
The French point guard had 20 points and nine assists in Game 1, as San Antonio registered an easier than expected 105-83 win.
On Tuesday, he dished out a career-high 18 assists (the previous mark was 17), scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and stole three balls in Game 2 to lead San Antonio to a hard-fought 93-89 victory in overtime.
"[Parker] was unbelievable," Duncan, who scored a team-high 17 points, said.
"He's exhausted; we asked a lot of him."
Parker stayed on the floor for 42 minutes, one less than Gasol did for Memphis.
"He was controlling the ball every time down the floor and was making every right play there was," Duncan added.
"He was finding people, and people knocked down shots for him."
The French star went to the bench for some well-deserved rest with the Spurs leading 72-54.
In his absence, Memphis went on a 16-6 run and started closing in to finally force overtime on a Mike Conley floating lay-up with 18 seconds left on the clock that tied the scores at 85.
Parker was visibly tired in the extra period but the Spurs held on for the win.
"He's a Hall of Fame guard, people," Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins admitted sportingly.
"He's been around; he's done great things in his career."
Among those achievements Parker can count three NBA titles and one Finals MVP award; but both him and his Spurs team-mates can also remember last season's Western Conference finals, when they led Oklahoma City Thunder 2-0 before losing the following four games and missing out on the title series.
Marc Gasol is the main reason why Memphis can still hope to emulate Oklahoma's achievement against the Spurs.
With power forward Zach Randolph struggling in the first two games, the Spanish center has been the one constant for his team, averaging 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and three steals in the first two games.
Gasol, just like the Grizzlies, is playing a conference finals series for the first time but he has evolved into their leader.
"We were more Memphis Grizzlies tonight," he said in an effort to raise morale after his team's comeback in Game 2 had fallen short.
"We were more us."
The series now moves to Memphis for Game 3, on Saturday night.
The Eastern Conference finals, between reigning NBA champions Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers of French international Ian Mahinmi tip off on Wednesday night.