OAKLAND – Warriors coach Steve Kerr, like the rest of the NBA, marvels at the defense of the San Antonio Spurs. He may be most impressed, however, by one particular aspect.
That would be the effectiveness of one Spur not generally known for tight defense.
“Tony Parker’s defense has changed a lot,” Kerr said Sunday. “His commitment and his energy at that end, putting pressure on the ball, seems better to me than last year. I think he was banged up a little bit last year. He looks like he’s really in good shape and healthy.”
Parker’s defense will be under the microscope when the teams meet Monday night at Oracle Arena because the 6-foot-2 point guard’s primary assignment will be 6-3 Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP and current NBA scoring leader.
“It takes whole team to slow down a guy like that,” Parker said Sunday, after Spurs practice at USF. “He’s been on fire lately. I’ll start on him and we’ll see how it goes.
Though Curry also can expect his share of 6-7 wing Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Parker’s defense has been among the keys to San Antonio’s 38-6 record, the best start in the team’s storied history.
The Spurs lead the league in field-goal percentage defense (42.6) and in fewest points allowed per game (89.8). Spurs coach Greg Popovich, like Kerr, tosses a lot of credit toward Parker, saying “this is the best he has played at both ends of the court” in his career. This is Parker’s 15th season.
“He kind of sets the tone,” Kerr said of Parker.
Parker this season has not seen anyone quite like Curry, partly because the Warriors and Spurs have yet to face each other and partly because Curry poses more defensive challenges than any guard in the league.
Curry is averaging 30.1 points per game and, moreover, has drained 204 3-pointers – 71 more than the next-highest total, posted by teammate Klay Thompson.
This is as tough as it gets for Parker and his teammates.
“That’s for sure,” Parker said.
“Pop is very happy, saying I’m having my best year defensively,” he added. “So that’s the ultimate test. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great challenge. He’s playing great basketball. He’s been the best player in the league.”