The task of containing Duncan was shared by several Nets, including 7'2" Dikembe Mutombo, the most fascinating ancillary character in this Finals. Mutombo, who makes $16 million this season, $6.8 million more than Kidd, had been quietly chafing over his reserve status and found ways to turn most questions toward that subject. Asked after Game 1 what had happened when a Robinson elbow opened a gash on his lip that required six stitches to close, Mutombo said that Robinson was greeting him: "David say, 'Welcome, Mutombo. What you been doing sitting on the side?' " Mutombo was effective in Game 2 with three blocked shots and four rebounds in 20 minutes, but much less so on Sunday with zero blocks and three boards in 18 minutes. It will be interesting to see how much he plays in the remainder of the series because coach Byron Scott appears not to have confidence in him.
Duncan's primary shadow was 6'9" Kenyon Martin, who among the Nets played with the most passion and precision in the first three games. When the refs allowed Martin to muscle up, he could push Duncan out to 17 or 18 feet, where TD's options are much more limited. (However, Martin fouled out of Game 1 and drew his fifth in Game 3 with 7:26 still remaining.) And when the double team came and Duncan got rid of the ball, most of the Spurs weren't comfortable shooting.
Most, but not all. Though Parker often misfired on Sunday with his teardrop—that high floater released before a taller defender can block it—he bloodlessly tormented the Nets from the perimeter. Two Parker three-pointers a minute apart late in the third period gave San Antonio momentum, and he hit two more in the fourth, the last with 5:21 left, to give the Spurs a 73-62 lead. As is their wont, the Spurs had trouble holding their advantage, and the Nets cut the deficit to 78-75 with 1:30 left. Duncan, however, got an offensive rebound on a missed free throw and fed Parker, who motored along the baseline, looking for a receiver. Swingman Manu Ginboli read the situation, stepped into a seam to get the pass and made a leaning eight-footer that may have been the most important basket of the game.
For Parker, handling the Finals pressure seemed as natural as sipping a glass of red wine, which became legal for him on May 17 Asked after Sunday's game why he is so efficient at running the high pick-and-roll, he answered, "I don't know. I just try to play out of it." One might as well have asked 16-year-old Steve Winwood how he was able to pull off the lead vocal on I'm a Man with the Spencer Davis Group. Some things can't be taught. Refined, but not taught.
So who holds title to this lad, born in Bruges, Belgium, to an American father and a Dutch mother, schooled in Paris, now schooling others in the States? Certainly France has a strong claim, and Parker's performance has aroused Paris's pride. Stories about him have spread from L'Equipe, the French sports newspaper, to the front pages of Liberation and Le Figaro, Paris's major dailies. "The French want to make sure everyone knows he's a product of our club system," says George Eddy, who covers the NBA for Canal+, France's national TV network. "Because Tony is playing so well at so high a level, and because he has such an American-sounding name, we want to pull him back, let everyone know he's ours."
For now, though, Parker belongs to the Spurs, and even if they do make an offer to Kidd next month, it's a near certainty that TP will remain with TD. Exceptional halfway-between guys are hard to find.