THE SAN ANTONIO Spurs are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since they won their last championship back in 2007.
Tony Parker scored 37 points in his best game this postseason, and the San Antonio Spurs finished off a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies with a 93-86 win last night in the Western Conference final.
The Spurs now have won six straight in these playoffs, handing two straight losses to a team that had been undefeated on their own court in their best postseason in franchise history. Memphis finished off its best season ever swept by the very same franchise that needed four games to knock them out of their first playoff appearance back in 2004.
Parker had his best game this postseason as he hit 15 of 21 and all six at the free throw line earning the Spurs and Tim Duncan plenty of rest before Game 1 of the Finals on June 6.
"He's been amazing," Duncan said of Parker. "Every year he gets better and better and better. He's been carrying us. You can see tonight he carried us the entire game."
Duncan hugged Manu Ginobili before heading off the court, celebrating the chance at a title that slipped away a year ago when the Spurs blew a 2-0 lead to Oklahoma City losing four straight. Duncan, 37, finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kawhi Leonard added 11.
"We want to get back there," Duncan said of making the finals. "We've had some really close years where we fell right on the verge of getting back. It feels like forever since we've been there."
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had talked about how his Grizzlies needed to dig deep for something they didn't know they had to take the first step back into this series. But they couldn't outshoot the Spurs and got beaten once again at their own inside game.
The Spurs shot 51.3 percent (39 of 76) from the floor and outscored Memphis 52-32 in the paint, even though the Grizzlies had a 41-34 edge on the boards. Memphis led only briefly and the last at 6-4 as the Spurs took control early.
Memphis stayed close only by getting to the free throw line, making more shots there (17 of 24) than San Antonio took (12 of 13). The Grizzlies also got a career-high 22 points from reserve Quincy Pondexter, 18 of those in the second half. Pondexter was the only player from Memphis to shoot over .500. Zach Randolph finished with 13, continuing his struggles at the line where he was 5-for-8, and Marc Gasol had 14.
Two people familiar with the situation say the Charlotte Bobcats have hired Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford to become their new coach. The sources say Clifford has agreed to a 3-year contact. They spoke to the Associated Press yesterday on condition of anonymity. Clifford replaces Mike Dunlap, who was fired after going 21-61 in his one season as coach.