Tony Parker scored a game-high 37 points and dished out eight assists as the San Antonio Spurs knocked off the Philadelphia 76ers 100-90 and extended their league-leading active winning streak to six games. The Spurs' point guard consistently wormed his way into the paint and absolutely dissected the NBA's best defense, as he hit 8 of his 12 made shots in the lane, added a perfect 13-13 performance from the free throw line and collapsed the defense to create open looks for his teammates. Tim Duncan collected his third straight double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Gary Neal added 18 points with 4-4 from three, while Philly got a team-high 22 points from Louis Williams to go with 17 points and 7 rebounds from Andre Iguodala.
Parker has been unstoppable in the month of February. He has averaged 26.3 points on 51.3 percent shooting with 6.8 assists over the last five games, and recently earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors. Jrue Holiday tried to work through high screens in pick-and-roll and bother the Frenchman's jumper in isolation, but Parker consistently beat the defense and forced his way into the paint to make plays. Sixers head coach Doug Collins still sounded unsure of how to stop Parker when he spoke to Reuben Frank of CSN Philly after the game:
"Tony Parker was amazing tonight, to say the least," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "Thirty-seven and eight. He had that ball on a string, and we were trying our best to keep him corralled, make him shoot jump shots, and we just never could get him under control."
Philadelphia managed to withstand an immaculate first quarter from Gary Neal -- who scored 12 points on 4-4 shooting and 3-3 from beyond the arc -- and a cold-shooting second quarter as a team (33.3 percent) to get to halftime down by just three points. Jrue Holiday couldn't find his shot for most of the night, but he dished out all seven of his assists in the first two quarters, feeding Iguodala three times in the first and hooking up with Elton Brand twice in the second period.
After the intermission, Parker really began to flex his muscles in high pick-and-roll. Aside from scoring 21 second half points, he also helped the Spurs pull away and keep the lead safe by creating a multitude of easy opportunities in the paint. As San Antonio dropped in 28 points in the paint on 14-23 inside shooting during the final two periods, the Sixers struggled to get those same quality looks and settled for jumpshots on 24 of their final 43 attempts and scored only 18 points in the paint over that same span.
Philly has taken the lowest percentage of shots within three feet of the rim of any team so far this season, but their inability to prevent the Spurs from operating in the painted area prevented any comeback bid on Wednesday night. Thaddeus Young put together a solid offensive effort with 16 points on 8-11 shooting, but struggled to defend the pick-and-roll as the hedge defender and off-ball help defender in the second half. The subtle disparity in the quality of offensive opportunities allowed San Antonio to grow their lead to eight points by the end of the third quarter and never let it get under five for the remainder of the game. The game recap at Liberty Ballers serves to punctuate the difference between the approach of the two teams on Wednesday night:
All season long the Sixers have been settling for the outside shot rather than attacking the rim. While it had been working and defying percentages so far, it was just a matter of time before the lack of the free throw attempts and shots at the rim caught up with the Atlantic Division's first place team. Tonight was that night. Sixer players not named Thaddeus Young or Andre Iguodala shot a combined 23 for 70, otherwise known as 32.8%, otherwise known as bad. The Sixers played right into the Spurs defensive gameplan as they were content with the Sixers taking those long jumpers all night long. As soon as any Sixer would get the ball in the paint, Spurs defenders collapsed, forcing the Sixers to kick the ball back out to jumpshooters who couldn't hit the mid-range or long-two shots all night.
The Sixers (18-8) are now 4-2 on a run against top competition that Doug Collins has termed "Death Row," while the Spurs (18-9) improved to 2-0 on their 9-game, 16-day rodeo road trip.