SAN ANTONIO – The AT&T Center was buzzing Monday night for the return of Tony Parker to San Antonio as a member of the Charlotte Hornets.
Parker got a great reception from the crowd and his former teammates. Then his current team proceeded to sting the Spurs with a 108-93 win. The loss dropped the Spurs to 25-20.
Despite the good feelings throughout the arena, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was not happy and concerned about the defense, primarily in the early stages of the game.
"We kind of followed them around for a whole half and finally started to get a little bit more physical, a little bit more competitive in the second half on the defensive end. But we were really soft in the first half and that hurt us," said Popovich.
Parker reminded the Spurs fans of greatness that once dominated the AT&T Center court.
He hit a couple of jump shots and made a couple of buckets off vintage Tony Parker drives.
Parker ended the night with eight points and four assists.
“It was great, we got the win so that's the most important thing but I’m definitely tired,” Parker said. “It was draining mentally, emotionally. It was just an awesome night.”
"I care so much about the Spurs," Parker said. "It was very weird to play against them. I don't know if I was nervous. It was a little bit of everything."
Tony Parker postgame reaction to win over Spurs...says it was an emotional, mentally draining game...thanked fans and talked about family, friends surprising him tonight. #KSATsports #KSATnews #NBA #Spurs pic.twitter.com/fjT6A5R5ZJ— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) January 15, 2019
After an early lead, the Spurs gave way to a hot shooting Hornets team, especially Kemba Walker.
Walker finished with 33 points on 13-27 shooting, hitting 7 of 13 from 3-point range. "Kemba Walker was great. Tony Parker did a great job," Popovich said.
The Spurs managed to get a one point lead once in the second half, but could not take control of the game.
There were times it looked like November again when the Spurs had leaky defense, and it seemed like they struggled on offense, except for LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored a team high 28.
"We are just going to have games where shots aren't going to fall so we just have to find other ways to score, but we have had guys shoot well most of the year, but it is just going to happen," Aldridge said.
Usual sharp shooters Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills both struggled. Forbes went 3 of 12 from the field and Mills went 6 of 16.
"We've got to find more way to score. We are jut a little bit challenged in that way so we've got to talk about that, but that was basically the game," Popovich said.
"We couldn't score. We didn't have enough scoring, but we tried to make it as tough as possible on them," said DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 14 points and five assists.
More factors in San Antonio's offensive struggles were Marco Belinelli and Rudy Gay missing the game with injuries. Gay is expected to return for the Spurs upcoming road trip.
"As soon as we get him back and get back healthy, I'm pretty sure we'll get back to where we left off," DeRozan said.
Tony Parker tribute video...fans give Parker standing ovation and began to chant “Tony, Tony” at ATT Center. Well done by franchise for an all-time Spurs great. #KSATsports #KSATnews #NBA #Spurs pic.twitter.com/qOVWUYbvpz— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) January 15, 2019
Still, the night partially belonged to Parker. A video tribute was played for Parker before the game started.
He received a standing ovation after the video ended and once again when he was re-inserted into the game late in the fourth quarter to dribble out the clock.
The 36-year-old point guard who spent 17 seasons and won four championships in San Antonio appeared to be overwhelmed with the reception from the fans.
“Just want to thank the fans," Parker said. "The way they reacted tonight was just unbelievable. I loved and I appreciate everything so it was just a great memory and great night for me that I will cherish for the rest of my life."
The Spurs hit the road for games at Dallas and Minnesota.
Tony Parker comes out for warmups before #Hornets #Spurs game and is greeted by cheers and friends and family...emotional night expected at AT&T Center. #KSATsports #KSATnews #NBA pic.twitter.com/GBBFG4Ohmu— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) January 15, 2019