No Parker? No Problem
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The San Antonio Spurs, who have another 20 games on their schedule, may play half those contests without MVP candidate Tony Parker, who suffered an ankle sprain last week.
Not that it matters much.
Because the Spurs did not seem to miss Parker a bit in their 39-point win over Detroit Sunday or their 18-point win over Chicago Wednesday.
And chances are San Antonio will probably continue to roll without him, while playing nine of the next 11 games at home.
Credit Gregg Popovich's system, a.k.a. The Program, of being able to fill in for any of his Big 3 going down at any time.
Parker goes down, and Pop starts 14th man Cory Joseph in his spot, while having Patty Mills back him up, while sixth-man shooting guard Manu Ginobili continues to assist the young points on the job, as he did in both games.
That's the Spurs' way for 16 seasons now, where San Antonio has played NBA-best .706 ball (878-366).
And the point has really been driven home from the 2010-11 campaign--where eight Spurs from the current team played together--to the present season, where San Antonio again has been playing an NBA-best .757 brand of basketball in three collective seasons (159-51).
Pop has steadily entrusted his bench with more playing time each year, taking his top five minutemen's playing time down from 59 percent in 2010-11 all the way down to 50 percent in lockout 2011-12 and to 53 percent this season.
By contrast, the Thunder and Heat play their main fives 67 and 63 percent of the time, while a team like the injury-riddled Lakers still plays their top five minutemen 60 percent of the time.
That healthy dose of playing time is what keeps the Spurs' reserves prepared at all times.
The subs' mandate at those times when a key player goes down: Cover for your man. You don't have to play like All-Star when you replace him. Just don't screw up The Program by playing outside the system.
And the Spurs keep on winning as the young subs grow into key players themselves.
That is why the Spurs are 40-15 (.727) the last three seasons whenever Parker or Ginobili or Duncan miss a game.
That is an incredible statistic.
In contests where the Spurs' Big 3 rested, San Antonio was 3-5 the past three seasons. And in games where two of the three sat, which happened with Duncan and Ginobili five times the past three years, the Spurs are 3-2.
But whenever only one of the three is out, the Spurs don't seem to miss a beat: 6-2 without Parker, 8-3 without Duncan and 26-10 without Ginobili.
Chances are, with a favorable schedule in March, San Antonio should be able to hold on to that No. 1 slot … as long as Duncan and Ginobili can stay healthy while waiting for Parker to rally back.