(left) is leading the Spurs
in scoring and assists during the playoffs. (Richard Rowe/NBAE/Getty Images)
Spurs guard Tony Parker will be ready to go for the 2014 NBA Finals versus the Heat after a sore left ankle forced him from action during Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Thunder.
Game 1 of the Finals between the Spurs and Heat is set for San Antonio's AT&T Center on Thursday.
"He's getting better every day, and I expect him to play," coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Without their All-Star point guard, the Spurs closed out the Thunder 112-107 in overtime in Game 6 on Saturday, avoiding a Game 7 that would have been played on Monday and giving Parker five days to get ready for the Heat.
"It's perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1," Parker said, after sitting out the Spurs' practice on Tuesday, according to the AP.
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Parker, 32, is averaging 17.2 points and 4.9 assists per game during the postseason, leading San Antonio in both categories despite dealing with nagging injuries in recent weeks. He was previously forced from action during Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Blazers with a hamstring injury, but he was good to go once the Western Conference finals opened.
Popovich said Saturday that Parker's ankle had been bothering him for Games 4 and 5 against the Thunder, adding that Parker came to him just minutes before Game 6 to say that he couldn't play on the ankle. After weighing the pros and cons, Popovich elected to play Parker in the first half before sitting him and starting reserve guard Cory Joseph for the second half. According to Popovich, Parker's ankle was at less than 50 percent, causing the 2014 Coach of the Year to make the shutdown decision.
"I wanted to play," Parker said Tuesday, according to the AP. "Pop was like, 'No, we never know for Game 7.' So I understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to watch from the locker room. At the same time, I was very proud of my teammates. They stepped up big. It was huge for us because I think those five days [off] are big for us to prepare for the finals."
The Spurs are set to face the Heat in the Finals for the second straight year, the first time the same pair of teams have met in back-to-back Finals since Michael Jordan's Bulls defeated the Jazz in 1997 and 1998.
Parker was also limited by a hamstring injury during the 2013 Finals, averaging 15.7 points (on 41.2 percent shooting) and 6.4 assists against Miami. The Spurs ultimately fell in seven games to the Heat.