SAN ANTONIO: The San Antonio Spurs served up their second NBA finals beat-down in a row against Miami with much of the credit going to their French Connection combo of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.
Starters Parker and Diaw help anchor the most internationally diverse roster in the league, and while Parker has been a mainstay in the Spurs’ recent championship runs, Diaw is making his first big splash in the 2014 NBA finals.
They combined for 27 points and 11 assists on Thursday night as San Antonio routed the Heat 107-86 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Coach Gregg Popovich is expected to keep the same starting lineup as the series switches back to San Antonio for game five on Sunday.
The Spurs, who lost in seven games to the Heat in last year’s finals, need to win just one of the next three games to claim their fifth NBA title.
The Spurs roster features nine international players — the most in NBA history on any team. Countries that have more than one player on the roster are France and Australia with Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.
But it is Diaw that has become the biggest unlikely hero of the finals.
“He is playing great basketball,” said Parker of Diaw. “I have known him for so long. It is almost like a dream right now just playing with him for the NBA championship.”
Diaw and Parker are on the verge of winning an NBA title just nine months after leading France to a European championship.
“I have been seeing him every summer because I play with him on the national team. He has always been a great player for us,” said Parker.
Parker scored 19 points on eight-of-15 shooting from the floor in 35 minutes of playing time in game four.
Diaw also played 35 minutes, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists as he flirted with a triple double. The nine assists tied a playoff career high for Diaw.
“Pop told me to try to be a facilitator out there.” said Diaw. “I just tried to make plays for others and make the right choices.
“They are pretty aggressive on their pick and rolls, so I just try to be somebody that is looking for the open man.
“We don’t want to go for the home-run pass. Sometimes the easy pass is the right pass.”
Two years ago, Diaw was cut by the Charlotte Bobcats and then signed four months later by the Spurs. He played in just four games in March of 2012 for Charlotte.
“The Bobcats were not right for him because he is the ultimate team player and needs a system. He is a perfect fit for us,” Parker said.
Tim Duncan said Diaw is playing with more confidence in the finals.
“He hasn’t even scored that much but he has found a way to be really effective getting in the paint and finding people and making plays for us,” said Duncan, who is from the Virgin Islands.
Mills, of Canberra, is another Spur who has become an surprise contributor.
“Patty’s feeding off everybody,” said Parker. “He’s by himself in the corners and he’s just making shots. He is playing great defence and just giving us a great boost.”