San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has never been particularly subtle when it comes to motivating his players.
So when Tony Parker arrived at TD Garden for Wednesday night’s game against the Celtics, Popovich reminded his point guard how ragged his shot has looked of late.
Parker took only 11 shots against the Clippers on Monday and scored 11 points in a loss. He also played poorly against the Nuggets on Saturday.
“Pop was like, ‘Are you going to shoot sometime during this season?’ ” Parker said. “He was just messing with me because I didn’t get a lot of shots against the Clippers. He was telling me I want you to be more aggressive.”
It worked. Parker scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Spurs to a 112-100 victory. He was 12 of 17 from the field, turning the quick pace of the game into his advantage.
Point guard Rajon Rondo had a strong game for the Celtics, scoring 22 points and dealing 15 assists. But Parker controlled the game, hitting several big shots in the fourth quarter to blunt any chance the Celtics had of a comeback.
“This was [Parker’s] best game in a while. He hasn’t really scored; he hasn’t really been aggressive for whatever reason. He’s known it and he’s been trying to work through it, trying to put a finger on it,” Popovich said. “He played a complete game.
“This is the Tony Parker that we’re used to and that we have to have if we’re going to beat good teams like Boston.”
Parker came into the game averaging 13.9 points and shooting 41 percent from the field. But he shot the ball well from the start on Wednesday and pushed the throttle offensively, keeping the Spurs in transition and wearing the Celtics down.
“I think Tony’s been aggressive. He’s a little out of rhythm at this point. He’s been missing a lot of shots that he usually makes and he just made them tonight,” teammate Tim Duncan said. “That was kind of the difference. He made his floaters; he made his in-betweens. That opened up the floor for our offense.”
Facing Rondo also helped get Parker going. As Popovich said, individual matchups often serve to spark NBA players.
“It’s always a good challenge. Rondo is one of the best in the NBA and every time you play one of the best you want to be aggressive,” Parker said. “Rondo had a great game, too. It was a good battle of point guards.”
The Celtics trailed by as much as 16 in the fourth quarter. They trimmed the lead to 9 with just over seven minutes left before Parker responded with a layup. With 5:42 left and the Spurs up by 12, Parker ran the court and beat the Celtics defense for a transition layup.
At 102-88, San Antonio had enough of a cushion to withstand a run by the Celtics in the final four minutes. Parker had two more hoops to help secure the victory.
“I thought out transition game was pretty good. We’ve been missing that,” Parker said. “Getting some easy baskets gets everybody going. I thought tonight we tried to push the ball and tried to get some easy stuff.”
The Spurs started a six-game road trip with an impressive win and Parker rediscovered his shot. That had him smiling afterward. For one night, Popovich might leave him alone.
“I keep working on it and tonight was a good night,” Parker said.