Everything you need to know about the Spurs’ 130-101 dismantling of the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night was contained in one 30-second stretch of the second quarter after Tony Parker lost his left shoe during a drive to the basket that left him sprawled on the court at AT&T Center.
Someone had stepped on Parker’s heel, but his momentum was so powerful it pulled his foot out of his tightly laced, custom-fitted basketball shoe as he launched a short shot that clanged off the front of the rim.
Parker grabbed the shoe and ran to the side of the court while his teammates hustled back to defend the Nets, four against five.
When Spurs center Pau Gasol rebounded a missed layup attempt by Brooklyn point guard Isaiah Whitehead, he got the ball to Kawhi Leonard, who glanced over at Parker, still seated and struggling with shoelaces that wouldn’t cooperate. There was no play to run without Parker on the floor, so Leonard drove from the top of the key and scored on Nets defenders Joe Harris and Luis Scola.
In this win, the most lopsided since the 129-100 stunner over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on opening night, it didn’t matter if the Spurs were outnumbered. Parker’s predicament became a punch line as the Spurs followed their first road loss of the season with a blowout win that left patrons laughing.
“Tony was a distraction,” veteran guard Manu Ginobili said of the crazy four-against-five sequence.
Make no mistake: Parker, Ginobili, and the rest of the Spurs approached Saturday’s game with serious intent. They wasted no time taking control against one of the NBA’s worst teams – the loss left the Nets with a record of 6-16 – and never let up. Kawhi Leonard scored 30 points, his seventh game of the season with at least 30, in just over 27 minutes, and he didn’t play at all in the final 15 minutes. Five of his teammates scored in double figures as the Spurs produced season highs in points in a quarter (41 in the first period), points in a half (67 in the first half), and a game. They had assists on 38-of-50 baskets, also a season high, and ran their record to 19-5, still second-best in the NBA.
Ginobili called the easy win a needed balm for a team that returned from a three-game road hurting from their worst performance of the season, and never mind Gregg Popovich’s caustic remarks about their lack of readiness in the loss to the Bulls.
“Sometimes you don’t need somebody to remind you what you did last game,” Ginobili said. “So, no, we are big boys and we didn’t like the way we played (on the road). So, we needed to feel better about the way we played, and we did.
“We were hurt by the way we were playing, especially last game, and we needed a good one. We need to feel good, to move the ball, and it was a good occasion to do it. Of course, we faced a team that is kind of struggling, trying to figure it out with a lot of new faces, but we took advantage of them. And sometimes, even with all that, you go to the last two minutes. But, no, today we took care of business from minute one.”
While both shoes remained on his feet, Parker was a big part of the quick start. He made 3-of-4 shots, scored seven points and handed out four assists in the first quarter, intent on doing his part to turn around the worrisome trend of falling behind early in games, home and away.
“My knees were feeling good, so I felt better,” said Parker, who has missed eight games this season with knee soreness. “I wanted to do my part. I wanted to bring more energy.”
Parker got the Spurs started with ball movement, but he had plenty of help. Five Spurs had at least four assists and the passing produced 26 3-point attempts, the majority of them unguarded. They made 14 of them, a season high.
“Everybody passed the ball and got rid of it,” Popovich said. “Nobody played in a crowd, and that’s how we have to play at the offensive end.”
The dominating win was reminiscent of the Spurs’ play on their home court last season, when they won all but one regular season game at AT&T Center, often by large margins. Only two of their previous wins at home this season had been by double figures, neither by more than 19 points.
But the Spurs brought the fun back to their home court on Saturday, and Ginobili hopes it can be the start of something important.
“The fun is when everybody feels involved and we move the ball, and we’re passing and screen away and make the pitch and everybody got those many assists,” Ginobili said. “Many times, we talk about how the game starts on defense and carries to the offense. Now, the bad offense is bothering us, bringing us down and our defense is not as aggressive as it has been. So, I think, at least the last 10 or 25 games, our problems have been on the offense. And today was a great step ahead.
“We’ll see if it was just an exception, or if we can count on it.”