Yet the young point guard was thrilled to be rid of an even bigger pain: The Sacramento Kings, who stretched the defending champions in all kinds of ways before ultimately behaving like a typical No. 8 seed in Game 6.
Parker scored a playoff career-high 31 points and Tim Duncan had 15 as the Spurs finally shook the Kings, finishing off their first-round series 105-83 Friday night.
With an 18-1 run spanning halftime and fundamentally flawless play down the stretch, the top-seeded Spurs advanced to the second round for the sixth consecutive season. And their next matchup is a grabber: On Sunday afternoon, the Spurs will host the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, their biggest rivals.
They were led out of unfriendly Arco Arena by the superb play of Parker, who helped take control of the game on a bruised right leg when Sacramento’s Ron Artest was briefly sidelined by a sprained ankle—a twist that turned Game 6 in San Antonio’s favor.
“I’m happy that the series is over,” said Parker, who surpassed his previous high from a 2004 game against the Lakers. “Sacramento is a really great team. They’re definitely not an 8 seed. … We’ll see (how the leg feels). I’m going to count on all those new machines we’ve got, and be ready for Sunday.”
The Mavericks, who finished their first-round sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, chased San Antonio in the Western Conference standings all season, ultimately falling three games short of the Spurs’ franchise-record 63-win season.
While Dallas cruised, the Spurs had a rough round in between blowout victories in the first and last games—but they finished strong. Bruce Bowen scored 16 points in Game 6 as the NBA’s best road team during the regular season also closed out a series on the road for the seventh time in the last four playoffs, barely noticing the sellout Sacramento crowd’s cheers and jeers.
“It was great to finish this series in pretty convincing fashion,” Duncan said. “Those guys were playing some of the best basketball in the league, and they won some tough games, so it was good to finish those guys up.”
Mike Bibby scored 19 points and Bonzi Wells had 17 points and 11 rebounds in another standout game for the Kings, who took two games from the Spurs at Arco Arena last week. Artest had 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting while playing on an injured ankle, but Sacramento didn’t have the poise or the resourcefulness to rally after San Antonio took control in the third quarter.
“We all had confidence we would win,” said Wells, who probably earned a fat free-agent contract with his inspired series. “I basically had my bags packed (for Game 7).”
The Spurs scored the final five points of the first half after Artest limped to the locker room with 1:58 left. San Antonio then made a 16-3 run to open the second, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Bowen and another from Brent Barry to take a 61-41 lead.
“I think the wind did go out of their sails when he got hurt,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s hard to quantify that, but I thought it had an effect, because we tried to take advantage of that.”
Parker also left the game in the fourth quarter to rest his strained and bruised right leg, but returned quickly as the Kings never got closer than 14 points.
“Such a bad time to get an ankle sprain—such an unfortunate break,” Artest said. “Pretty sore to cut and stuff. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.”
The Kings couldn’t become the third No. 8 seed to win a playoff series, but their late-season surge and a strong effort against the champs bodes well for next season. Wells is the only Sacramento regular who isn’t signed through at least 2007—though coach Rick Adelman also doesn’t have a contract after eight consecutive playoff trips.
“My situation, tonight is not the time to talk about it,” Adelman said. “The smoke will clear, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Kings rolled into the playoffs with 25 wins in their last 36 regular-season games, and had been nothing but trouble for the defending champs since Game 2 in San Antonio, where they nearly won before Barry’s tying 3-pointer took a fortuitous bounce in an overtime thriller.
Sacramento took Game 3 on Martin’s layup over Duncan as time expired, then stuck with the Spurs into the late minutes of Game 5 before San Antonio pulled it out.
The Kings hadn’t lost a Game 6 at home since 1951, when they were the Rochester Royals. Sacramento also hadn’t been eliminated from the playoffs at home since the Lakers did it in Game 7 of the memorable 2002 Western Conference finals.
Chicago Cubs 1B Derrek Lee, a Sacramento native, watched the game from courtside with a cast on his right arm. The 2005 NL batting champion could be out until late June with two broken bones in his wrist. … Sacramento C Brad Miller had another awful game, scoring three points on 1-for-6 shooting. … Robert Horry started at center again for the Spurs, scoring eight points. Nazr Mohammed, who started the first three games, played only the final 1:59.