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Parker, Spurs making another run

Are you ready to hop on the Tony Parker bandwagon yet?

San Antonio's best scorer, Manu Ginobili, has played just nine games this year. Tim Duncan is in the midst of his worst season as a pro. No other Spur is averaging 10 points per game.

But behind the dynamo point guard, San Antonio has the second best record in the West, and is on a 10-game winning streak.

Look at how Parker has stepped up his game month-by-month this year. In December, he averaged 13.8 points per game, shooting 42 percent from the field. January: 17.4 points per game, and 44.5 percent from the floor.

February? 25.8 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting. He's also averaging 7.9 assists per game during the month, and has a pair of 30-point, 10-assist games.

What's most impressive about Parker's season, though, is how he has managed to reinvent himself as the primary scoring option for a contending team. In 10 NBA seasons entering this year, Parker had averaged more than 20 points per game once, during the 2008-09 season (22.0). That same season was also the only year Parker took more than 17 shots per 36 minutes (18.5).

Those numbers could be in jeopardy. Parker is averaging 19.4 points per game, and 17 shots per 36 minutes, both the second highest averages of his career. From last year, his points are up 1.9 per game, and his shots are up 1.8 per 36 minutes.

And should Parker keep his hot February up, he could be looking at a career year in his 11th NBA season, coming off a severely shortened offseason that produced a lot of "lockout" basketball. Not bad for somebody who, previously, had been able to split the scoring load with Ginobili and Duncan.

MVP? You could argue Parker could make it an interesting race between him and King James. Not surprisingly, the first two teams in this week's power rankings.

Other Week 8 observations:

No stopping Miami

Remember that team Jeff Van Gundy predicted would shatter the Bulls' record-setting 72-win season? They've arrived, just a year late. Since an 8-4 start, Miami has rattled off 17 wins in 20 games -- two of those losses, of course, inexplicably coming at the hands of the Bucks. Over that stretch, the Heat have outscored opponents by an average of 102-91. They are 9-1 against teams projected to make the playoffs, and have beaten the Spurs (120-98), Lakers (98-87), Sixers (113-92 and 99-79), Hawks (107-87), Pacers (105-90) and Magic (90-78) by double-digits. I hope that preseason NBA championship wager was placed on the Heatles, because at this point, any other team looks like lost money.


The Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka trio put up an historic night against the Nuggets. Let's step back, though, and look at the bigger problem from that game: another example of Oklahoma City's lack of depth. As noted in the power rankings, the rest of the Thunder roster combined to shoot 3-for-30 from the field, posting a plus/minus of -42. I've also touched on before that there are only four players on the team -- the three above and James Harden -- that are averaging more than six points per game. And Daequan Cook, the team's fifth-leading scorer, is shooting 36.6 percent from the field.

What makes this lack of depth worse is that Oklahoma City has shown it likes to win in shootouts; they've given up 100 points in seven of the last 13 games. Unless somebody else on this team can emerge as a reliable scorer, OKC will be susceptible to an upset in the postseason.

Not-so-crunch time Clippers

Even without Chauncey Billups, the Clippers seem to be one of four teams in the West -- with the Spurs, Thunder and Mavericks -- that will be in the mix for the Western Conference title. But what will happen when this team is locked up in a battle late?

As shown in a loss to the Mavs last Monday, there are ways you can stop the Clippers late. Dallas, for example, used a Hack-a-Blake technique to perfection. Griffin missed seven of his nine free throws, and the Mavericks won, 96-92.Take it a step further, and look at what the Clippers have done, as a team, in late-and-close situations. In the last five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime in games that are within five points, Lob City has been ugly. Chris Paul is the only player to hit at least 10 field goals, shooting 18-for-46. Griffin has connected on just 8 of 20 attempts. DeAndre Jordan -- who has taken a whopping four total jump shots over 10 feet this entire year -- is the only player shooting better than 50 percent (5-for-6, a small sample size). Caron Butler and Mo Williams have combined to miss 13 of 16 3-point attempts. Opposing teams will recognize this trend and start forcing the ball out of CP3's hands. Then what happens for LAC?

What happened to the pack?

Teams 10-through-16 in the power rankings -- the Rockets, Lakers, Grizzlies, Blazers, Nuggets, Pacers and Hawks -- have all been ranked in the top 10 this year. They've all also been frighteningly average lately. Combined, the seven teams are 34-39 since Feb. 1. Four of the seven teams have losing streaks of at least three games in February, and all seven teams have lost back-to-back games at least once. Considering how streaky the Rockets have been, the Pau Gasol rumors in Los Angeles, injuries in Memphis and the general ineptitude of Portland, Denver, Indiana and Atlanta lately, it may be safe to say that none of these teams, at one point in the thick of championship contention, are real threats to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.


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